November 22, 2021 5 min read

Eugene Boudin was a French painter and draughtsman. He studied painting in Paris, under Jean Baptiste Isabey and Constant Troyon. During his trip in 1859, he met Gustave Courbet, whose marine paintings impressed him. The poet's advice inspired him to begin painting marine scenes around 1861. For his treatment of light, he is considered one of the forerunners of impressionism, and he was friends with Claude Monet, whom he met while living in Le Havre. From 1892 he settled on the French Riviera, where he devoted himself constantly to painting seascapes.


Boudin's painting, "The Atlantic Coast near Benerville," is an exercise in observation. Nothing surprising happens; no one leaps into the surf, and most of the people appear to be sleeping. The sky is overcast, the water dark and choppy. The most striking thing about the painting is its rich detail: it doesn't look like a photo, but it looks realer than a drawing. It's not clear how Boudin did this. The best guess is that he painted from life, with a camera lucida a kind of lens that attaches to the painter's eye and projects what he sees onto a canvas laid on an easel. This would explain why Boudin was such an unusually careful painter. Before he set out, he would study the scene as carefully as if he were going to paint it; then when he got to his studio, everything was fixed in his mind, and all he had to do was transfer it onto canvas. There is nothing like this painting: nothing like its level of detail, nothing like how it looks so real and yet so obviously made up of individual brush strokes. But every great artist does something similar; their works look like real life because they really looked at real life.


Eugène Boudin was a master of light, with a gift for capturing the atmosphere of a place at a specific time of day. In the most famous of the works he made in Douarnenez, he was able to create a feeling not just of the shore and bay, but also of the sky above it and the reflections in the water beneath. In order to paint something like that, you have to be able to feel what it is like to be there. And you have to be able to feel how different it will look at different times of day. You know that it will look different at night, or if there is fog or rain. And you need to remember what it looked like when you were there last year, or five years ago, or twenty years ago.


Eugene Boudin's The Bay of Douarnenez is a beautiful painting. It looks like it was painted yesterday. Yet it was painted more than 150 years ago. The canvas is covered with thin paint. You can almost see through it under the right light, so the image seems to float over the surface, glowing with light. It's not just luminous, but alive. And yet only a little of the glow comes from the paint itself. Most of it comes from the scene itself; Boudin made this luminous by standing in front of an ordinary beach and looking at it with extraordinary attention.


The painting "Deauville, the Harbor" was painted by Eugene Boudin in 1883. It is in the collection of National Gallery in London. The painting depicts a harbor in Deauville, France. The water in the foreground is smooth and calm. A few sailboats are anchored in the harbor. There are many large ships further back in the harbor with their sails furled. The sun is shining on this rather quiet, peaceful scene. The painting has subdued colors, with blues and yellows predominating. This is characteristic of the Impressionist style of painting that Boudin helped to develop along with his friend Claude Monet. The contrast between the calmness of this scene and the stormy weather that is typical of the Normandy coast gives an impression of peacefulness and quietude that is typical of his work. His paintings were noted for their moods; he was not interested in producing exact representations but rather in conveying moods and emotions through careful brushwork and subtle combinations of color.


Boudin's painting Sailing Ships at Deauville is a classic example of Impressionism. It is a painting with big brush strokes and, as you can see from this picture, there are a lot of colors. This painting shows the most common type of sailing ship that was used in the 19th century. At that time, France was one of the most important countries in the world for building ships and sailing ships were very common in the port of Deauville.


For Boudin, the sky with its constant movement of clouds and ever-changing light was an endless source of artistic inspiration throughout his life. In The Port work, as in so many of his other paintings, Boudin devotes two-thirds of the composition to the sky. Reflections of masts and harbor paint the water faintly in shades of white, gray even, while the clouds move through a bright blue sky, and there is little wave movement.


Boudin was a marine painter and an expert in the interpretation of everything that happens on the sea and its coasts. The artist's rough brushstrokes suggest the choppy, windblown surface of the water, agitated by the energy of a gathering storm. Eugene Boudin's painting Sailboats near Trouville was created in 1884, and currenty it is housed in the Yale University Art Gallery.


In the 1870s, Boudin visited the expanding coastal town of Trouville more than once, and love of ships and port activity drew him to this harbor. In The Port of Trouville paintings shows the promenade is dominated by a long row of buildings and ships moored at the quay. The beach, with its large hotels and casino, was popular with the city's visitors. Boudin's attention to atmospheric conditions and cloud formations won him the title "king of the skies" from painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.


In this picture of The Beach at Villerville, it looks as though the main attraction is wind. The flutter of her dress and hair, chasing clouds and rolling waves onto the shore, forced the ladies to the left to wrap up tightly in their cloaks, while the girl on the right tightened her hold on the umbrella. Boudin used the shadows and soft transitions of color, and specks of red tone do not contrast but calm, soft colors. The painting seems to capture the special status of the air—a subtle combination of colors, light and air space.


French artist Eugene Boudin created Beach Scene at Trouville paintings in 1863. Camille Corot, a painter of landscapes, once wrote that Eugene Boudin was "the king of the skies." And judging by this small painting of his a very professional and amazing work, we have no choice but to agree with him. In order to create even more of a sense of expanse, Boudin has placed the horizon very low in the painting, so that the sky occupies nearly two thirds of the composition.

Geoffrey CONCAS
Geoffrey CONCAS