Boudin was the son of a ship's captain and was thus born in Honfleur. His early life was centered on Le Havre, where he started a frame store frequented by artists like Jean-Francois Millet, who inspired him to pursue art. While in Paris, Boudin attended classes at the Louvre. He also connected with Barbizon School artists.
In the same way that Corot learned by doing, so did Boudin, who also preferred to paint outside. He has a keen eye for social detail, and most of his works are modest landscapes depicting the harbors and beaches of the northern French coast. As early as 1856, Boudin exposed Claude-Oscar Monet to Plein air painting. As the 1860s progressed, the pair continued to collaborate.
Even before the Impressionists were formed, the self-taught painter Eugène Boudin had shown an interest in painting en Plein air and depicting modern landscapes by the 1860s. He avoided the confining Parisian setting to adequately describe the natural scenery that inspired him much because of his formative years spent near the Normandy shore. Indeed, the elder Boudin introduced the young Claude-Oscar Monet to painting en Plein air. After "apprehensively and then more closely" observing Boudin, Monet concluded, "When that happened, it was as if the blinds were suddenly opened. Finally, I realized the potential of art. Boudin's devotion to his work and autonomy were decisive factors in my art's direction."
Despite his effect on subsequent painters, Boudin was a humble and tireless worker who felt he could never do justice to nature's splendors. Despite constant acclaim from his numerous acquaintances—including Constant Troyon, Jean-Francois Millet, Gustave Courbet, Monet, and Charles Baudelaire—he battled throughout his career to overcome his melancholy demeanor and self-deprecation. Boudin was so esteemed that Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot crowned him "king of the sky." Art critic Arsène Alexandre called Boudin a "precursor" to the Impressionist movement, a stepping stone to one of the most talked about and, in modern times, one of the most popular phrases in nineteenth-century art. Boudin, given his personality, probably never fully grasped the significance of his artistic contribution. Boudin's audience was "placed in direct touch with her" because he "conserved an attitude of acquaintance with nature...without striving to flatter or exaggerate it," a quality frequently lost on succeeding generations of artists.
On July 12, 1824, in the French port city of Honfleur, in the Normandy area, the life of artist Eugène Boudin began. Both of his parents were involved in the maritime industry, with his father rising to the rank of captain and his mother taking up a position as a stewardess, so it was inevitable that he would follow in their footsteps. Eugène joined his father in his line of work as early as ten, becoming a cabin boy aboard his father's boat, the Polichinelle, which sailed between Honfleur and Rouen. Sketching his book's margins, Eugène drew for the first time while on the Polichinelle. The near-drowning and the Polichinelle's shaky safety record meant Eugène did not spend much time onboard.
In 1835, Boudin followed his family to Le Havre, where he attended school at the École des Frères on the avenue St. Jacques. After just a year, he left this school, where he had previously received a prize for his handwriting and was well-known for his sketches of birds and foliage in his notebooks. Boudin left school after the year and went to work for printer Joseph Morley, later switching to Alphonse Lemasle at his stationery store on the rue des Drapers. Female recognized Boudin's dedication and noted his enthusiasm for art. As a gift, he gave him his first art supplies. Boudin worked for Lemasle until he was eighteen, when he and Lemasle's foreman, Jean Archer, decided to go out on their own.
In 1844, Boudin and Archer launched a stationery store. As a successful business, it quickly became the go-to spot for area creatives needing exhibition space and art materials. This place served as a gallery for local painters and provided Boudin with invaluable insight into a world he had not yet fully explored: that of the artist. Jean-Francois Millet warned Boudin against this kind of destitute lifestyle, stressing the difficulties of living on one's wits alone. Instead of taking Millet's counsel, Boudin was inspired to explore his creative interests by meeting and collaborating with other artists, including Constant Troyon, Thomas Couture, and Eugène Isabey. Even though the firm he and Archer established was instrumental in putting Boudin in touch with a wide range of notable artists, Boudin ultimately decided to sell his stake in the company to pay someone else to serve his mandatory military obligation in his stead. At this point in his life, Boudin devoted himself entirely to his art. In the early years of his career, he struggled mightily, toiling from dawn till night along the coast, drawing all he saw. To make ends meet and save money to go to Paris, he dabbled in as many mediums as he could afford, including pastels, watercolors, paintings, and sketches. He also sold flower paintings and still-lifes on the side. In 1847 he traveled to Paris. He didn't know then that he'd always get back where he started: on the Normandy beaches.
A fortunate turn of events since he could visit museums in Belgium and learn about artists from the Dutch school, including Willem Van De Velde, Jacob van Ruysdael, and Paulus Potter. Even though he never had the luxury of artistic training that so determined the course that many of his contemporaries eventually followed, Boudin had been exposed to modern traditions through his study at the Louvre and his travels throughout the regions of northern France and into modern-day Benelux.
Upon his return to Le Havre, Boudin immediately participated in the fairs and exhibits. In 1850, he first showed his work to the public at the Société des Amis des Arts exhibition in Le Havre. The head of the municipal council of Le Havre suggested that Boudin be considered for a trip grant after the buying committee of the organization purchased two of his pieces and was so pleased with the artist. Boudin was given a research grant of 1200 francs per year for three years after being recommended by Troyon and others. A proponent of Boudin, Troyon remarked, "...I can affirm from the bottom of my heart that Boudin is not only destined to be a great painter but can already be regarded on a par with the young artists of our new school."
Boudin arrived in Paris in 1851, but he spent much of his time outside of the city, moving between Rouen, Le Havre, Honfleur, and Caen, getting away from the urban environment and communing with nature, much to the chagrin of the original committee members who gave him the grant. Boudin felt like an exile in Paris because of the city's lack of support for the arts and inability to satisfy his desire to pursue Plein air painting. Boudin was not interested in creating images inside. "Everything that is painted instantly and on the spot always has vigor, a force, and a vivacity of touch which one cannot regain in the studio," Boudin said. Compared to time spent at an easel in a studio, Boudin believed that "three strokes of the brush in front of nature are worth more than two days of effort." Boudin worked en Plein air, but his process was still quite methodical. The final painting was always the result of several preliminary drawings he would do.
Some of his melancholy stemmed from the fact that he could never give it justice despite his respect for nature. In March of 1854, he reflected in his notebook, "Nature is richer than I show it." 'When I'm not afflicted by poverty, I'm tortured by her splendor,' he added, expressing sadness. If only I could be satisfied only look at the wonders of the sky and earth, I would consider myself very lucky indeed. However, there is always the agony of trying to replicate them, the inability to create something new within the confines of painting.
Boudin's career was defined by the fact that he could never fully appreciate the value of his work, despite nature serving as both his inspiration and his curse. Nevertheless, despite his unwillingness to belong to any solid group or definition, other artists and critics started noting his work as his circle of influence and acquaintance grew. He received his first critical acclaim from Charles Baudelaire. With Pardon de Saint Anne Palud, Boudin made his debut in the Paris salon in 1859. (Pardon of Saint Anne Palud). Earlier in the year, Baudelaire visited Boudin in his workshop and became familiar with the artist and his work. In his book Curiosités esthétiques, he discussed Boudin's Salon submission and included him in a list of the most innovative painters of the time. Baudelaire said that if other painters visited Boudin's workshop as he had:...they would then comprehend what they do not appear to understand, namely the difference between a sketch and a picture..., foreseeing problems that the Impressionists would experience but chose not to solve. He is not so arrogant as to pretend that his drawings are accomplished works of art; he understands well well that all of this has to be turned into a picture by adding poetic impressions recalled at will.
Boudin's completed works, on the other hand, already have a looseness in execution that approaches the quality of a sketch. Through Normandy and into Brittany in 1855, Boudin visited the city of Douarnenez, the place he had "been dreaming about," as well as Quimper.
Boudin took his peers' suggestion and established a studio on the avenue Pigalle in 1861. However, he spent just the bare minimum of his time in Paris, spending the rest of his time traveling between Paris, Le Havre, and Honfleur. Isabey, one of Boudin's closest friends, advised that he visit the famous seaside resorts of Trouville and Deauville to paint beach scenes since they were becoming more fashionable among the bourgeoisie. He did several paintings and drawings here, exploring issues like climate change, environmental diversity, and the influence of local fashion. They were "pretty true reproductions of the world of our age," in Boudin's opinion, albeit not "a big art." Especially in the 1860s, his art and career mirrored many of the fundamental difficulties confronting artists at the time, doing his works like Plage au Soleil Couchant (Beach with the Setting Sun) of 1865, particularly interesting. He was torn between a fascination with the world of high fashion, on parade on his beloved Normandy beaches, and a feeling for the indigenous customs of rural communities; in terms of technique, he pursued a shorthand method of transcribing his perceptions of the most fleeting natural effect; in terms of subject matter, he was torn between a fascination with the world of high fashion, on parade on his beloved Normandy beaches; and in terms of seeking markets for his work,
Although these paintings are significant to Boudin's work, by the late 1860s, he had moved on to focusing "completely on studies of the sky, of boats, and herds of animals." Boudin was the only artist who could portray the intricacies of the sky with such accuracy: Eugène Boudin gives us the sensation of enormity and holds our attention, allured by the novelty of a view which every day we have beneath our eyes and which we have never seen before, while many artists merely saw a pretext for enormous expanses of blue, opaque, and dusty.
Visitors to the Normandy beaches were one particular audience for Boudin's work. Boudin realized this was not enough to support him, so he sought additional ways to capitalize on his art. His art was not an instant hit, but he could network his way into semi-regular exhibitions at several 857, 1879), Caen (1862), and Paris (1869) were just a few of the cities where he held his auctions during his career (1879, 1888). Overall, the auctions were unsuccessful, and Boudin did not have a reliable patron until the 1880s when he began working with Paul Durand-Ruel.
Boudin had submittedgularly to the Parisian salons and several regional Salons. Still, he had not yet achieved the public and private recognition he had sought. Not until around 1869 did his fame start to spread more systematically. Since his 1859 debut, he had regularly shown his work at the Paris Salon and began traveling to other French towns for exhibits, including Rouen, Pau, Roubaix, and Grenoble. At the start of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, a Belgian merchant named M. Gauchez commissioned numerous paintings and invited him to Brussels to work from a studio there. By the end of August 1871, Boudin called this place home. In 1875 and 1876, he revisited Belgium despite having serious reservations about the city of Brussels.
Artists including Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Monet, Camille Pissaro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among others of the avant-garde, were included in a contentious 1874 show at the gallery of photographer Nadar. Boudin participated in the first Impressionist exhibition. Boudin showed his varied acceptability by participating in both the avant-garde production at Nadar's and the Salon, which was seen as an opponent of the former. He submitted two paintings and many pastels and watercolors to the former and exhibited at the latter concurrently. This was Boudin's only time showing with the Impressionists. Yet, it was a watershed event that connected previous and future artistic movements in France, with Boudin serving as a connecting link.
Boudin was an older man struggling against the vitality of youth that was beginning to fail him while being presented beside some of his day's most innovative, youthful painters. His close friends Millet, Courbet, and Corot died around the same time in the mid-1870s, leaving him with a profound sorrow further aggravated by his illness, facial neuralgia, which would limit his creative output for the remainder of his life. Yet it was also during this time that Boudin started to gain the acclaim and popularity that had been building for him for so long. The 1880s were Boudin's moment of widespread arrival; the artist noted in his notebook that 1881 "marked the beginning of an 'official' interest in Boudin" due to his success at the Salon and his dealings with Durand-Ruel. As noted by critic Edmond Duranty, the artist's "impulsive brilliance and initiative" has never earned him any remuneration since he first exhibited. This is a blatant injustice that one must never stop publicizing. They will allow this artist to age, let disease weaken him, and use his decline as an excuse to cast him aside as he nears death, despite his immense value to the world.
In the end, he was rewarded with fame, widespread acclaim, strong sales, and several accolades. First honored by the Salon jury with a third-class medal in 1881 for La Meuse a Rotterdam (The Meuse River at Rotterdam), Boudin went on to win two more awards in 1883 for his works L'Entrée (The Entrance) and La Sortie (The Exit) (The Departure). Many of his works, including his 1886 Salon entry "A Grain," 1888's "La Corvette Russe Dans le Bassin de L'Eure - Le Havre," and 1892's "Rade de Villefranche," were acquired by the state in the same year that he was appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. When he passed away in 1898, he never stopped sending in work to the Salon.
In addition to his published Salon pieces, his business dealings with Durand-Ruel had also been fruitful. Approximately 150 paintings, pastels, and sketches by Boudin were displayed during Durand-new Ruel's gallery opening on the Boulevard de la Madeleine in Paris in 1883. At an auction held in 1888 at the Hotel Druout in Paris, Boudin's sales and success continued. Having been admitted to the Société des Beaux-Arts in 1890, he continued to arrange exhibits at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1889, 1890, and 1891. His creations were shown in Boston after crossing the Atlantic (1890, 1891). The need for his designs far outpaced his ability to meet it. Though he lamented, "I tire myself horribly to please the world, and never manage to content myself," he persisted in his labor despite the late arrival of his just rewards.
By winter, Boudin's health had deteriorated to the point that he was advised to spend the cold months in the south of France, close to Villefranche, Antibes, and Beaulieu. He went as far east as Venice and later painted in northern France (in places like Dieppe, Fécamp, and Le Havre) and the nations to its north and east. Previously, he had reflected on his preoccupation with a departure in his diary. I need to get out of here because I know seeing new places will help me unwind. After the death of his wife in 1889, he sought comfort in his travels and art. He knew he was dying in 1898 and moved back to Deauville beside the water, where he passed away on August 8 of that year, possibly from stomach cancer.
Throughout his career, which spanned over fifty years, Boudin created more than four thousand paintings and seven thousand sketches, watercolors, and pastels. Although prolific in output, he did not get due credit until late in life for the skills he had honed over decades. Always devoted to the ocean, he traveled from place to place in search of the perfect view. Not only did he serve as a role model for the next generation of Impressionists, he also managed to break through the barriers of a highly bureaucratic and politically charged artistic system that had previously hindered the careers of many talented creatives. From the majestic Parisian Salon to the more modern Impressionist exhibition and those of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, his exhibition involvement spanned a wide range of artistic styles and patronage interests. Boudin's reputation as the best maritime painter grew after his death in 1898, long after he had already left the scene.
Boudin's works may be shown in the Musée d'Orsay at Paris and the Musée Eugène Boudin in Honfleur. In addition to having the most extensive collection of Boudin's original watercolors, pastels, and sketches, the Louvre is also home to the artist's papers. Pau, Lisieux, Dijon, Evreux, Valenciennes, Rennes, Douai, Rouen, Lyon, Bordeaux, Caen, and Lille are only few of the many provincial museums in France that showcase his art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others, is one of several American institutions with one of his paintings.
Most paintings Eugène-Louis Boudin did are about Seascape, People, Landscape, Cityscape, Boat, Sketch and Study, Animal, and other subjects.
Most of the artist's works that can be seen by the public today are now kept in museums like National Gallery of Art - Washington DC, Musée Malraux, Scottish National Gallery - National Galleries of Scotland, and others.
Famous Eugène-Louis Boudin period artists include Camille Pissarro (French, 1830 -1903), Marianne North (British, 1830 -1890), Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853 -1890), Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky (Russian, 1817 -1900), Alfred Sisley (French, 1839 -1899), Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 -1906), Paul Gauguin (French, 1848 -1903), Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin (Russian, 1832 -1898), Isaak Levitan (Russian, 1860 -1900), Winslow Homer (American, 1836 -1910), Albert Bierstadt (American, 1830 -1902), Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836 -1904), and others.
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