Eugène Boudin

1824 - 1898

Place Born


Place Died



The son of a sailor, Boudin grew up in the port of Le Havre, on the Normandy coast, where his family moved in 1835 when he was eleven years old. He began work the next year as an assistant in a stationary 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 both Troyon and Millet who, along with Eugéne Isabey and Couture whom he also met at this time, encouraged the young Boudin to follow an artistic career. At the age of twenty-two he abandoned the world of commerce, taking up 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 permanently although he often returned to paint in Normandy and, from 1855, made regular trips to Brittany.

Dutch seventeenth century masters had a profound influence upon him and, on meeting the Dutch painter Jongkind, who had already made his mark in French artistic circles, was advised by his new friend to work en plein air. He also worked with Troyon and Isabey and in 1859 met Courbet who introduced him to Baudelaire, the first critic to draw Boudin’s talents to public attention when the artist made his debut at the 1859 Salon.[1] Following his visit to Boudin’s studio, Baudelaire noted that anyone who had accompanied him ‘would have seen several hundred pastel-studies, improvised in front of the sea and sky, and would then have understood what they do not yet seem to understand – the gulf which separates a study from a picture. …He knows quite well that all this will have to be turned into a picture, by means of poetic impressions recalled at will; and he lays no claim to offering his notes as pictures. Later, no doubt, these prodigious enchantments of air and water will be displayed for us in finished paintings.’ Baudelaire went on to praise the artist for his skill in capturing the ‘clouds, with their fantastic and luminous forms; these ferments of gloom; these immensities of green and pink suspended and added one upon another; these gaping furnaces; these firmaments of black or purple satin, crumpled, rolled or torn; these horizons in mourning, or streaming with molten metal – in short, all these depths and all these splendors rose to my brain like a heady drink or like the eloquence of opium.’[2]

In 1857 Boudin met the young Monet who spent several months working directly with Boudin in his studio. The two remained lifelong friends and Monet later paid tribute to Boudin’s early influence. Boudin joined Monet and his young friends in what was to be called the First Impressionist exhibition at Nadar’s studio in 1874 but never really considered himself a radical or innovator. Boudin’s growing reputation enabled him to travel extensively in the 1870s; he visited Belgium, Holland, the Midi and the South of France, and from 1892 to 1895 made regular trips to Venice. He continued to exhibit at the Salons, receiving a third place medal at the Salon of 1881, and a gold medal at the 1889 Exposition Universelle. In 1892 Boudin was made a knight of the Legion of Honor, a somewhat tardy recognition of his talents and influence on the art of his contemporaries. NOTES

[1] Le pardon de Sainte Anne Palud, now in the Museum at le Havre.

[2] Charles Baudelaire, Art in Paris 1845-1862, Salons and other exhibitions, trans. & edited by Jonathan Mayne, Oxford, 1965, pp. 199-200.

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Le pont sur La Touques a Trouville

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Historical Period: 1840-1900 Realism to Impressionism
Le pont sur La Touques a Trouville