In Normandy, the small and charming port town of Honfleur has everything... Away from the crowds, Honfleur also has an art museum with some notable samples of impressionism in Normandy. The Boudin Museum was founded by a local boy who made good: Eugene Boudin, a forerunner of impressionism who's not that well-known, either in the U.S. or France. But his influence is visible in every collection of 19th-century French art.
(Eugene Boudin: The Man Who Inspired Monet by Susan Stamberg at npr.org)
Eugène Louis Boudin (12 July 1824 – 8 August 1898) was born in Honfleur, in the Normandy region of France. He was born into a family whose life revolved around the sea: both his mother and father made their living in the maritime community, his father eventually becoming a captain and his mother working as a stewardess. Eugène began working alongside his father around the age of ten, when he became a cabin boy on his father’s boat, the Polichinelle, which navigated between Honfleur and Rouen. Aboard the Polichinelle, Eugène began his first drawings, sketching in the margins of his book. While this experience was undoubtedly important for Eugène’s interest in the sea, he did not stay long aboard the Polichinelle after almost drowning and given the Polichinelle’s unreliable history of capsizing.
(Rehs GALLERIES, INC. at rehs.com)
In 1835 his family moved to Le Havre, where his father established himself as stationer and frame-maker. He began work the next year as an assistant in a stationery and framing store before opening his own small shop. There he came into contact with artists working in the area and exhibited in his shop the paintings of Constant Troyon and Jean-François Millet, who, along with Jean-Baptiste Isabey and Thomas Couture whom he met during this time, encouraged young Boudin to follow an artistic career. At the age of 22 he abandoned the world of commerce, started painting full-time, and traveled to Paris the following year and then through Flanders. In 1850 he earned a scholarship that enabled him to move to Paris, although he often returned to paint in Normandy and, from 1855, made regular trips to Brittany.
In 1856/57 Boudin met the young Claude Monet who spent several months working with Boudin in his studio. The two remained lifelong friends and Monet later paid tribute to Boudin’s early influence.
Oil on wood, 1864
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
The Beach at Villerville
Oil on canvas, 1864
Chester Dale Collection
Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
In 1874, a controversial exhibition at the photographer Nadar’s gallery took place, featuring a number of artists with audacious styles, such as Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Monet, Camille Pissaro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among other avant-garde artists. It was the first Impressionist exhibition and Boudin, too, was an exhibitor. He submitted two canvases and several pastels and watercolors, while simultaneously exhibiting at the Parisian Salon (Quai du Portrieux (Riverbanks of Portrieux) and Rivage du Portrieux (Shore of Portrieux), showing Boudin’s diverse acceptance – being simultaneously present at the avant-garde exhibition at Nadar’s and the Salon, the latter being considered somewhat of an enemy of the former. This was the only Impressionists exhibition in which Boudin participated, but it was an important moment, showing the links between the past and future tendencies of French artists, Boudin acting as an important link between the two.
(Rehs GALLERIES, INC. at rehs.com)
Oil on canvas, 1878
A painting of atmospheric splendor, the harbor anchorage of Etaples, above, is blanketed with the luminous colors of the departing sunset. Widely respected as a mentor among his peers, Boudin is high among the inspirational sources of the Plein-Air School of painting, and this canvas is from the period in his career when he mastered coastal seascapes under broad skies.
A sweeping panoramic view over Etaples, a northern principle fishing and leisure point of the Normandy Coast. The town has evolved through centuries of conquest and diplomacy, at different times hosting Vikings, Napoleonic troops, World War I Britains and occupying Germans in World War II. Through it all, the people of Etaples fished and survived. In Boudin’s lifetime, a major railway junction was established, opening the markets of Paris to the fishing, and most importantly, the north French coast as a vacation destination for Parisians headed to the beach. This superb example shows a range of warm, colorful lights casting heavy shadows amongst the ships in the foreground. This special painting by the artist is a perfect example of why Boudin earned the title “The King of Skies” from his artistic peers.
Alisa Hamu Photo at picasaweb.google.com
While many of Boudin's paintings depict fashionable vacationers on the beach or promenade, several present the daily activities of the local inhabitants who made such leisurely pursuits possible. Scenes of ships at sea and harbor festivals, as well as washerwomen, fishermen, and sailors at work, all remind the viewer that the English Channel was the economic and social lifeblood of these communities long before the rise of tourism.
Throughout his career, Boudin alternated his time between the seaside and Paris. During the warm summer months, he found inspiration at the shore, initially making meticulously rendered pencil drawings, such as those depicting coastal and farmyard scenes. He soon began to make quickly brushed watercolors of beachside visitors that would have been especially appealing (and affordable) mementos for the tourists depicted in them. In his Paris studio in the winter, Boudin developed his sketches into finished pictures and cultivated a cosmopolitan audience with such large compositions as Entrance to the Harbor, Le Havre, above, which was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1883. Unlike the watercolors, these paintings served a more public function, helping the artist gain official recognition.
(National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC at .nga.gov)
Museo d' Orsay, Parigi
Rivage de Portrieux, Cotes-du-Nord
The Coast of Portrieux, Cotes-du-Nord
Oil on canvas, 1874
Private collection, England
From The Artchive at artchive.com
La Plage de Benerville, Marèe Basse
The Beach at Benerville, Low Tide
Oil on canvas, 1892
Collection of The Dixon Gallery and Gardens
Bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Hugo N. Dixon
Laundresses by a Stream
The National Gallery, London
Bruxelles, canal de Louvain
La plage à Etretat (Stranden ved Etretat)
Der Strand von Trouville
Oil on canvas
Source The Yorck Project
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Eugène Boudin at Deauville-Trouville
Honfleur, Musée Eugène Boudin
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC at nga.gov
Market scenes, fisher folk and inland village scenes all were delicately worked by Boudin, but it was the harbor scenes that were his first and lasting love. The one exception was when he would turn to the beach scenes in Trouville and Deauville, when the season took over and the beaches were literally covered with hooped skirts, crinolines and fluttering bonnets. The atmosphere of society taking a formal day by the sea was brilliantly distilled by Boudin’s delicate brush; his eye noting the carefully arranged poses balanced on absurd little chairs, parasols carefully keeping any uncovered skin out of the sun, and the escorts stiffly at attention with morning suits correctly buttoned and top hats at the proper angle. Color is used sparingly – black was the fashion, but occasionally a brightly dressed child stands out and, of course, the ever-present French flag.
Boudin rarely left the north of France, but there were two notable periods when he did travel. The first was a six-month stay in Venice (during which period he produced over eighty paintings); the second and final sojourn was to the south of France in the last six years of life. Ill health required that he should leave the damp climate of the English Channel and his beloved Normandy and Brittany for the warmth and sunlight of the south. He painted but missed the luminous light of the north and was never able to recreate the Mediterranean skies as he wished.
The artist suffered many disappointments during his life; not least being the lack of recognition given to him by the public. In 1892 he was given the Legion d’Honneur. Scant recognition for one who virtually directed the birth of Impressionism by example. More to the point is the huge esteem that Boudin was held in by Corot, Courbet, Sisley, Manet, Monet and Jongkind. Today Boudin’s pictures give timeless pleasure to literally hundreds of fortunate collectors; at last he is seen for the genius he undoubtedly was.
(DUKE STREET GALLERY at dukestreetgallery.com)