Eugene Boudin
Biography and Paintings of Early Impressionist Landscape Painter.

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Beach Scene, Trouville (1873)
National Gallery, London. (detail)
A masterpiece of French painting.

Paintings by Eugene Boudin
are also widely available online
in the form of poster art.

For an idea of the pigments
used by Eugene Boudin, see:
Colour Palette Nineteenth Century.

Eugene Boudin (1824-98)

The French painter Eugene Boudin is seen as a bridge between the landscape painting of the generation of Camille Corot (1796-1875) and Impressionists like Monet (1840-1926), Renoir (1841-1919), and Alfred Sisley (1839-99). Working in Le Havre, he specialized in plein air painting - a practice to which he introduced the young Monet), painting beaches and seascapes. His subjects were the elegantly dressed society crowd who flocked to the Normandy coast, while the loose brushwork and quality of light in his paintings, especially in his luminous skies, are clear symptoms of early Impressionism. Writing of Boudin's influence, Monet commented: "Suddenly a veil was torn away, my destiny as a painter opened up to me." The two artists worked together on the Normandy coast in the summer of 1865. One of the first of his generation to paint outdoors, Boudin declared that three brushstrokes made outdoors were greater that days worth of grafting in the studio. Many of his paintings contain grains of sand from the beaches where he painted. A close friend and collaborator of Camille Corot, who on viewing a painting by Boudin stated "you are the master of the sky", Boudin made his debut at the 1859 Salon de Paris. By 1870, Monet, Sisley, Renoir and Pissarro (1830–1903) were all painting outdoors. Nearly 20 years older than the others, Boudin took part in the first of the Impressionist exhibitions in Paris, in 1874. For more information, see: Best Impressionist Paintings.

For a list of painters like
Eugene Boudin, see: Modern Artists.

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.
For the greatest view painters, see:
Best Landcape Artists.

For a list of the best examples of
Fine Art Painting, by the
world's top artists, see below:
Greatest Modern Paintings
Oils, watercolours, acrylics,
from 1850-present.
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History, styles and development.

For a discussion of the main
aesthetic issues concerning
the creative visual arts, see:
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Early Career

Boudin was born in Honfleur, Normandy, where his father was a sailor. In 1835 the family moved to Le Havre, where his father opened a small stationary and framing shop. Artists exhibited in the store, and Boudin took an early interest in their works. Both Jean-Francois Millet (1814-75), one of the founding members of the French Barbizon School of landscape painting and view painter Constant Troyon (1810- 65) sold their paintings at the shop, and Boudin was able to study their works, and talk to other artists including the miniature painter Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767–1855) and the history painter Thomas Couture (1815–79). However, his art hero at the time was Dutch landscape master Johan Jongkind (1819-1891). In 1846 Boudin started painting full-time, and travelled to Paris. In 1850 he earned a scholarship which enabled him to move to Paris full-time, although he often returned to the coasts of Normandy and Brittany to paint.


Development of Open-air Landscape Painting

In 1841 the American artist John Rand invented the collapsible metal tube for oil paint. For artists who liked to sketch outdoors, this device was invaluable. Eventually, artist-suppliers offered portable paint boxes (boîtes de campagne), some with built-in easels and parasols. At the same time, railway lines were expanding across the map of Europe, making the countryside more accessible. New lines connected Paris to the coastal areas of Normandy, and many of the outlying towns became the favourite subject matter of Impressionist painters. Boudin began to paint tourist scenes in 1862, the same year a new rail line opened between Paris and Trouville-Deauville, making travel to these resorts easier. City folk on beaches were unconventional subject matter, as traditionally artists were presented with scenes of fishermen and peasants. Boudin's tourists by contrast, arrived by train, and were wealthy patrons as well as subjects of his paintings. He included little narrative in his pictures; he was portraying a mass of people, not individuals, so he rarely painted a face in any detail and this anonymity added a modernism to his work. (To shed more light on Eugene Boudin's style of landscape painting, see: Characteristics of Impressionist Painting 1870-1910.)

Mature Career at the Paris Salon

By the middle of the 1850s, plein-air painting was becoming an established tradition. Painting styles were changing and artists felt prompted to paint nature with a spontaneous directness instead of enhancing it with representations of allegory or myth. That said, studies of many famous landscape paintings by Impressionists show that although they may have been started outside, many were 'finessed' indoors. Boudin, with Corot, was a strong influence on young Impressionist painters. He wrote: "anything painted directly, on the spot, always has a strength, a power, a lively touch that is lost in the studio. Your first impression is the right one. Stick to it and refuse to budge." Boudin made his own artistic debut at the Paris Salon in 1859, and continued to exhibit with the Salon for years. Unlike Monet or Renoir he never considered himself radical or particularly innovative. He participated in the Impressionist's first exhibition of 1874, but not in any subsequent exhibitions, preferring instead to stick with the Salon system.

Later Years

Boudin's reputation grew throughout the 1880s. The Musee d'Orsay in Paris contains many of his paintings and sketches, many oils on woods, including several of The Beach at Trouville; Port de Camaret (1872) and Les Berckoises (date not certain). Between 1892 and 1895 he made several visits to Venice, which gave him the opportunity to study the Old Masters of the Renaissance. He continued to paint into old age, enjoying harbour scenes with ships. In 1889 he won a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle, and in 1892 he was awarded the Legion of Honour. He died in 1898.

A museum in Boudin's honour was opened in his native town of Honfleur, and the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Le Havre holds a large collection of his style of Impressionist landscape painting. In addition, paintings by Eugene Boudin can be seen in many of the best art museums throughout the world.

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