Eugene Boudin produced some of the nineteenth century’s most beautiful and innovative French landscape paintings. As one the first Impressionist painters to create artwork outdoors, he inspired the French Impressionist Art Movement and championed painting “en plein air” oil on canvas painting.
This brief artistic biography explores famous Boudin paintings and his fascinating personal life.
Eugène Louis Boudin (born 12 July 1824) hails from Honfleur in the Calvados region of France. His father worked as a harbor pilot (a mariner with specialized knowledge of the port and its nearby area).
Consequently, Boudin worked on a steamboat running between Le Havre and Honfleur port from age ten.
The family moved to Le Havre in 1835, where Eugene Boudin’s father launched a shop selling picture frames, art supplies, and stationery. Eugène helped his father in the shop and later opened another store.
While this meant the two men abandoned life on the waters, Eugene Boudin kept the sea in his heart. His “sailor’s character” (exuding warmth, forthrightness, and openness) stayed with him. In addition, Boudin created many impressionist landscape paintings, including seascape scenes focusing on the coast and coastal workers.
These brief encounters deeply inspired Eugene Boudin. He also met artists such as Thomas Couture and Jean-Baptiste Isabey, who urged Boudin to pursue art as a vocation.
As a result, Boudin stopped running his shop aged twenty-two. However, he immediately started painting and traveled to Paris to further his career and education.
In 1850, Eugene Boudin won a prestigious scholarship allowing him to fund a full-time move to Paris. He joined the studio of Eugene Isabey and progressed quickly. Isabey’s focus on the Old Masters and Romantic landscapes and seascapes further inspired Boudin.
Eugène Boudin is particularly renowned for his paintings featuring beach scenes, holidaymakers, and fishing boats on the French coast. These artworks include images such as Beach at Trouville (1864) and The Basin, Deauville (c.1880).
Boudin often returned to Normandy during his early career. He painted landscapes and maritime art to supplement his income and fund his studies. Eugene Boudin also traveled to Brittany, honing his abilities to depict vast seas and skies.
Boudin's impressionist landscape paintings include scenes from Normandy towns such as Trouville and Deauville, as well as the South Coast. Oil paintings such as Women on the Beach at Berck (1881) and The Jetty at Low Tide (1893) illustrate his developing style.
By 1863, Boudin established a small yet growing reputation. He married Marie-Anne Guédès (a twenty-eight-year-old Brittany woman) in Le Havre. Together, the couple moved back to Paris and set up a home.
Eugène Boudin painted carefully yet expressively. He adored painters from the Dutch Golden Age of art, especially their immense skies and expansive landscapes.
Boudin also met the Dutch painter Johan Jongkind, who moved among French avant-garde circles. Jongkind encouraged Boudin to try painting outdoors, known as “en Plein air.” This pioneering approach involved painting directly from the landscape rather than producing preparatory sketches and finishing paintings in a studio.
Courbet also introduced Boudin to Charles Baudelaire, the influential writer, thinker, and art critic. Baudelaire helped Boudin’s rise to fame when he positively described Boudin’s art at the Paris Salon of 1859.
The year before his first Salon appearance, Eugene Boudin befriended a promising young artist. This artist was Claude Monet, aged just eighteen. Boudin was thirty-four.
Boudin persuaded and encouraged Monet to abandon his current heavily stylized drawings. Instead, Eugene Boudin inspired Monet to take up landscape painting. Monet later produced some of the most celebrated French Impressionist art.
Monet was an incredibly dedicated student and spent lots of time painting the French countryside and coasts in Boudin’s company. Boudin invited Monet on painting expeditions to his hometown of Le Havre and the surrounding area. He helped the young Monet appreciate the light, bright colors, and how light dances over water.
From this point onwards, Boudin and Monet remained lifelong friends. As an adult, Monet acknowledged Eugene Boudin’s profound influence on his painterly style and early career.
Speaking of his time with the painter, Monet commented that it was like a veil was “suddenly lifted from my eyes.” After this moment, Monet recalled, he knew he “could be a painter.”
While Boudin inspired many young artists and their French Impressionist paintings, he never considered himself an Impressionist painter.
Eugene Boudin exhibited in the first Impressionist exhibition (alongside artists such as Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Auguste Renoir) in 1873. Nonetheless, he did not believe his work was revolutionary.
Boudin exhibited alongside the French Impressionists a couple more times but soon shifted back to the official Paris Salon.
During 1870 and the Franco-Prussian War, Boudin lived in Antwerp. He returned to France in 1873 and lived in Bordeaux with his wife. By now, Eugene Boudin had an outstanding reputation and substantial income. As a result, he financed travels to the South of France, Netherlands, and Belgium.
The Paris Salon awarded Boudin a third-place medal in 1881. In addition, he won a gold medal from the Exposition Universelle in 1889. The previous year, the French government also made Eugene Boudin a Knight of the Légion D’Honneur in recognition of his artistic work.
Boudin spent much of his later life in the South of France. His wife, Marie-Anne Guédès, died in 1889. At this time, Boudin’s health also deteriorated. Nonetheless, he still made several trips to Venice (Italy) between 1892 and 1895.
By 1898, Boudin recognized that his health was failing. So he moved back to his home in Deauville in Normandy.
Eugene Boudin died on 8 August 1898, aged seventy-four. Fittingly for an artist devoted to coastal scenes and beautiful skies, he died in clear sight of the English Channel waters.
Boudin’s family and friends buried the artist at the Saint-Vincent Cemetery, based in the Montmartre district of Paris.
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