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 Eugene Boudin  (1824 - 1898)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: plein-air marine painting, coastal scenes

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

One of the earliest French plein-air painters, Eugéne Boudin became known for his marine scenes, especially people and boats along the shores, and for the expansive skyscapes of these canvases.  He worked in oil and pastel.

Boudin was born in Deauville, Honfleur, Normandy.  His father was a sailor, and as a young man, he worked as a cabin boy on a steamer that sailed on the Seine River between Havre and Honfleur.  However, he lost interest in making that activity his life's work, and became especially interested in art when in 1835, his father gave up being a sail and became a frame-maker.  Boudin became an assistant in his father's shop, and in that capacity met numerous artists working in the area including Jean-François Millet, Thomas Couture and Constant Tryon.  Couture was especially encouraging to the young Boudin to become a dedicated artist, which he did at age 22 when he started painting full time and left the job with his father. 

Boudin began traveling around France, and in 1850 when he was age 26, he received a scholarship that allowed him to move to Paris.  He became much influenced by 17th Century Dutch masters.  Meeting the Dutch painter, Johan Jongkind (1819-1891), regarded as a forerunner of the Impressionism of Claude Monet, Boudin was exposed to plein-air painting and encouraged by Jongkind to pursue it.  With Jongkind as his friend, Boudin entered a circle of artists including Gustave Courbet, who, in turn introduced him to Charles Baudelaire, highly influential critic who began publicly praising Boudin and reinforced him in 1859, when Boudin made his debut at the Paris Salon.  He became a frequent Salon exhibitor, winning a third-place medal in 1881 and a Gold Medal in 1889 at the Exposition Universelle.  Three years later he was made a knight of the Légion of Honor.

Two years earlier, Boudin met Claude Monet, who then worked with Boudin in his studio and became a life-long friend.  In 1874, Boudin joined Monet and other Impressionists in the first exhibition of works in that style.  However, Boudin did not consider himself nor did others consider him to be as radical as Monet and some of his followers.

As Boudin's career evolved, he traveled extensively beginning in the 1870s, and made frequent trips to Venice, Belgium, the Netherlands and southern France.  Towards the end of his life, he suffered ill health and knowing the end was near, returned to his hometown of Deauville to die within view of the water he loved so well.


Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugène_Boudin  (Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition; Gustave Cahen, Eugene Boudin)

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

The following was written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Louis Boudin was born in Honfleur, France on July 12, 1824, the son of a pilot.  His father gave up the sea and the family moved to Le Havre.  Soon after, Boudin stopped going to school and took a clerk's job in the printer's shop, drawing and painting at every free moment. 

His first contact with the world of French artists came when he was twenty. With an older partner he opened a small stationery store that specialized in artists' supplies and the framing of pictures.  In those days the picturesque city of LeHavre was a favorite resort for artists and through his little business he met Troyon, Millet and Courbet. 

Boudin went to Paris to study; in 1850 he received an annuity from the township of Le Havre which would permit him to study in Paris for three years.  Each year he sent back to the museum in Le Havre one or more pictures, but his success was not brilliant and the committee did not renew its confidence. After a short time he returned to his native town.   

He was a follower of Corot and in his turn became the master of Monet.  Boudin was a leader in the colony called Ecole St. Sinion, which included Millet, Courbet, Diaz, Harpignies, Jongkind, Monet and others.  He moved to Trouville, then married and settled in Havre.  From 1875 on he exhibited at the Salon.  In 1896, then over seventy, he received the Legion of Honour, He died at Deauville on August 8, 1898.       

His best work was on his small canvases. He was pre-eminent as a painter of tidal rivers, and Corot called him "Master of the sea."  A large number of his sketches are at Havre. Boudin has not often received the full credit he deserves as an important contributor to the impresionist movement.  His modesty and timidity and the constant dissatisfaction he felt in his own acheivement may have been partly responsible for this.  But it was he who convinced Monet of the value of working in the open air and indeed, did much to deflect Monet from his early comparatively high style toward the lighter, airier and more brilliantly colored pictures for which he became famous.   

Sources include:   
Metropolitan Miniatures: French Impressionists  
From the internet, Artchive.com


Biography from VALLEJO GALLERY, LLC, Marine Art Specialists:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

In April of 1874 a group of artists organized an exhibition in Paris that would revolutionize the future of fine art painting worldwide.  Among the exhibitors appeared previously little known names such as Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas, Sisley, Pissarro and Morisot, all of whom were destined for prominence as the leaders of the new school that would become known as Impressionism.  Also exhibiting at this first showing of impressionist paintings was Claude Monet's revered mentor and teacher, Eugene Boudin.

Boudin was an impressionist painter long before there was such a school or classification.  Boudin's influence on his fellow artists was profound, as expressed by his student Monet, who when asked about his time studying with Boudin, stated simply: “It was as if at last my eyes were opened.  If I have become a painter it is entirely due to Eugene Boudin.”

The life and works of this artist are inseparably linked with the sea.  Born in Honfleur on the coast of Maritime Normandy in 1824, Boudin sprang from a long line of sailors and fishermen who made their living along this channel coast of Northwestern France.  The pristine beaches, perpetually crowded harbor basins and bustling ports would provide Boudin with a lifetime's worth of subjects for his work.

Boudin began to paint as a major change was taking place in France that was to be the beginnings of modern art.  In the 1840s a school of realism was emerging led by master Gustave Courbet.  For the first time ordinary people and everyday scenes became subjects for art along with a fascination for capturing the fleeting effects of light, color, and atmosphere.

Boudin's devotion and need to be surrounded by nature led him to become one of the first French painters to work out-of-doors, directly from nature.  Boudin was to say: "Everything that is painted directly on the spot has always a strength, a power, a vividness of touch that one does not find again in the studio."  It was from him that generations of future painters would learn the importance of maintaining the "first impression, which is the good one."

Boudin was entirely self-taught.  Nothing in his environment favored his artistic instinct, and no one encouraged him.  Because there was no one else to learn from, he developed his own technique of directness and immediacy with a total absence of any academic flourish or stylishness.

After a failed business attempt in the 1840s, Boudin turned to painting full time.  His early years were extremely difficult.  Despite his struggles and ill fortune, he was determined to follow his vocation, steadily pursuing the personal vision that would lead him to the verge of impressionism.  Work became his consolation from a torment of uncertainty and self-doubt.  It was only his passion for painting that could comfort him in the gloominess of his everyday life.

He spend days at the harbor or on the neighboring coast where he fell under the spell of the shore and the sea and the cloud-filled skies.  It was here, painting his love for nature, that he began to develop the studies of sea and sky that were soon to become his great passion.  His dominant idea was that: "Nature should appear more abundant, more luxuriant, I must find the means of preserving the luminous power which is the essence of her charm, so that it will do one good to see nature in my paintings, just as it does in reality."

He wrote in his notebooks at this time of his feelings of inadequacy:  "Nature is far richer than I can ever represent her.  My pictures are flawed, perhaps my dreams are better.  Perfection!  Elusive perfection.  Sometimes I look at the light which bathes the earth, shimmers on water, and plays on people's clothing and I feel positively faint at the idea of how much genius is necessary to overcome so many difficulties."

But he was beginning to fashion the style and settle upon the subjects that would finally bring him critical recognition and secure his reputation.  His paintings began to show an atmospheric style specializing in the play of light on beaches and wet rocks, shifting mists, stormy skies and the uncertainty of the marine horizon. He became obsessed with skies.  His journals describe his wish: "...to steep oneself in the sky.  To capture the tenderness of the clouds.  To let the cloud masses float in the background, far off in the gray mist, and then make the blue blaze forth."

In the late 1850s, although still years away from any significant public recognition, he began to be noticed by his peers in the art community.  He was sought out by artists such as Courbet and Edouard Manet.  It was Courbet who introduced Boudin to French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire who marveled at how Boudin's paintings "..understand what would seem beyond comprehension".  It was the great and controversial Camille Corot who would be the first to dub Boudin "The King of Skies".

It was also during this time that Boudin met the teen-aged Claude Monet who was making his living drawing cartoon portraits and caricatures around Le Havre.  It was Boudin who first recognized and nurtured Monet's remarkable talent.  For the remainder of his life Monet praised his mentor as the turning point in his professional life.  It is a tribute to Boudin's greatness that, apart from his own work, he was able to awaken the genius of one of the greatest and most original of modern painters.

As Boudin's talent began to become recognized, he began a way of life that was to continue until his death.  He opened a studio in Montmartre where he spent the winters tolerating the Paris art scene.  When the warmer months came, his need and passion to be out in nature brought him back to the Normandy beaches and waterfronts he loved so well.  The familiar sunlight and sky revitalized and inspired him. "Nature is so beautiful that when I am not tortured by poverty I'm tortured by her splendor. How fortunate to see and admire the glories of sky and earth; if only I could be content just to admire them instead of the torment of struggling to reproduce them within the narrow limits of painting!"

Boudin was now coming into his own.  He developed a technique with a more spontaneous application of paint to achieve a more rapid translation of sensations.  His touch became fluid, but also delicate, never broken or detached as in later impressionist paintings.  He favored small paintings as a format, mainly because of the expense involved compared to large canvases.  His painting style became gently feathered, blended and succinctly articulated.  It was the style for which he became known.

In 1861, Boudin spent the summer in Trouville, a fashionable resort with friends Gustave Courbet and the American artist James McNeill Whistler.  It was here, almost by coincidence, that he began painting the elegant summer visitors in fashionable dress strolling along the beaches, watching regattas and horse races. Initially, these "Beach Scenes" were rejected by dealers, but proved to be very popular with the public and contributed to their creator's first financial and critical success.

With the popularity of his beach scenes Boudin finally felt within himself that he had arrived as an accomplished artist.  His works began selling well and were in high demand. His fellow artists such as Daubigny and Rouseau were buying his paintings. It was a time of growth and freedom for Boudin after years of poverty and struggle.

1881 marked the beginning of official interest in Boudin.  The widely acclaimed Paris dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel took an active interest in the 56 year old Boudin.  The name of Durand-Ruel is inseparable from the history of French painting. It was his obstinacy and belief in their talent and genius that ensured the destiny of the impressionist school.  Upon his first visit to Boudin's studio he was so impressed he purchased every canvas the artist had.  Durand-Ruel would promote Boudin and serve as his principal agent for the remainder of his life.

It was Durand-Ruel who organized the second ever impressionist exhibition at his Paris gallery in 1882.  Boudin emerged as one of the strongest of the impressionist school.  It was said that Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and Renoir were "the crowd of young rascals who pursued him". 

Boudin was to enjoy his success until the end of his life.  Based on his popularity, it would have been simple to do no more than recopy his own work.  But at the age of 60, Boudin realized that "one can grow old in this profession, but to grow slack is forbidden.  One must finish one's career valiantly, and show one has not grown soft with age."  He refused to let himself go into decline and set out to renew himself and increase his vision even further.

It is not surprising that some of Boudin's most recognized work came from the last years of his life.  After visiting the Mediterranean for the first time in 1888, he discovered strong new light sources and brought new dimensions and depth of color into his art.  He developed a second style which became known as his luminous and sunlit style.  His palette was enriched with new tones, a greater intensity of light and a more powerful execution of fresh and lively colors.

After the death of his wife in 1889, Boudin returned once again to the familiar places between Deauville and Dunkirk where his favorite shores were to be found.  He derived solace again in painting the sea and sky of his youth.  The human presence was often reduced in these later works as he concentrated increasingly on the grandeur of nature, an enchanted vision of the sea, sky and weather.  At the small beach at Etretat he painted a series of 20 pictures including, La falaise d'amont, The Upstream Cliff.

Boudin died in Deauville in 1898, ten miles from Honfleur where he was born.  It can be said that between these two towns stretched Boudin's entire life, captured in the oils and canvases of one of history's most remarkable painters.  The Normandy coast will forever echo with the name and talent of Eugene Boudin.


Biography from Odon Wagner Gallery:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Eugene Boudin, the son of a ship’s captain, was born on the coast at Honfleur in Normandy in 1824.  He thus became familiar with the moods and atmosphere of the sea, which, along with the Normandy countryside, was the artist’s main subject matter.  As a young man in Le Havre, Boudin worked with a stationer and framer who displayed paintings by visiting artists, circumstances that allowed the young man to meet established painters such as Theodule Ribot, Eugene Isabey and Constant Troyon, among others.

With advice and encouragement from these important painters, Boudin embarked on his own artistic career, eventually winning a grant in 1851 from the city of Le Havre to study painting in Paris for three years.  During this time, he did a great deal of work outdoors. When Boudin returned to Le Havre, he embarked seriously on a career of Marine painting.  He traveled extensively in the area, painting scenes along the entire Atlantic coast, from Holland to Bordeaux.

At an exhibition of the Societe des Amis des Arts du Havre in 1958, Boudin met Claude Monet to whom he stressed the importance of working directly from nature. At the end of his life he also worked on the French Riviera.  By 1859 he had achieved a style in the rendering of skies that henceforth excited the admiration of artists and critics, leading to Courbet to call him a “seraph”, and to Corot to coin the epithet “king of the skies”.

Boudin was an artist of great independence who made discoveries that foretold those of the Impressionists.  He shared with them a love of movement and the contemporary scene and a pioneering pleasure in working out of doors, though his palette is unusual in the predominance of subtle gray tones.  Eugene Boudin was the first Frenchman in modern times to carry the art of marine painting to the level achieved by the English painters Turner, Bonington, and Constable.  Indeed, he is considered by many to be one of the greatest painters of the sea.

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