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Eugène Boudin
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Famous for his depictions of Normandy’s beaches and marine scenes, Eugène Boudin’s paintings, created out-of-doors, have been described as a prelude to Impressionism. A hard-working artist, he created nearly 4,000 oil paintings and some 6,000 drawings, pastels and watercolors. Born in 1824 to a family of modest means in Honfleur on the Normandy coast, his father was a fisherman and the master of a small cargo boat and his mother was a chambermaid on passenger ships. At the age of ten he worked as a cabin boy on his father’s boat. The family moved to Le Havre in 1835, where Boudin worked in a stationer’s shop. At the age of twenty he and a friend established their own store selling stationery and art supplies and doing picture framing, where they also displayed art works. Through this practice Boudin came to know several artists of the day, including Thomas Couture (1815-1879), Eugène Isaby (1803-1886), and Jean-Françoise Millet (1814-1875). He sold his share of the business in 1846 to obtain funds to pay for a replacement to enter the military in his place. He attempted to make a living selling drawings of scenes of Le Havre, but without much success. Boudin went to Paris in 1847, where he copied Old Masters and other paintings in the Louvre. He sold some of his copies to Baron Isidore-Justin-Séverin Taylor (1789-1879), who in 1848 gave Boudin the job of traveling around northern France and Belgium to promote a lottery benefitting artists and writers. The travel enabled Boudin to study the work of Flemish artists. After exhibiting paintings in an art show in Le Havre in 1850, he obtained a three-year stipend from the town council for study in Paris. Couture and the painter Constant Troyon (1810-1865) had supported his request. During the 1850s Boudin divided his time among Paris, Le Havre and Honfleur. In 1858 he met Claude Monet (1840-1926) in Le Havre and the two began painting together as Boudin introduced Monet to painting landscapes out-of-doors. The next year one of Boudin’s paintings was exhibited in the official Salon in Paris, which was mentioned favorably in a review of the Salon written by the critic and poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867). Boudin’s friendship with the painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) began that year as well. That fall Boudin took a studio in Paris, and began his custom of spending winter in the capital and summers on the coasts of Brittany and Normandy. He married Marie-Anne Guédès in 1863. Beginning with the Salon of 1863, he exhibited at the Salon almost every year, often submitting scenes of the beaches at Trouville and Deauville filled with well-dressed summer visitors. By the end of the decade he began to enjoy financial success, held a successful sale in Paris, received a commission to create decorative panels for a chateau and received numerous commissions from a Belgian collector. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 forced him to escape to Brussels and Antwerp, where he created some of his best works. He returned to France in 1871, and enjoyed a growing reputation and improved patronage. Boudin participated in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, but found that the art market deteriorated later in that decade. In 1881 the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) became Boudin’s dealer, buying most of his art. Durand-Ruel organized an exhibition of some 150 of Boudin’s paintings and drawings in Paris in 1883. He later included Boudin’s works in exhibitions in Paris, Boston and New York. With his new wealth Boudin built a house in Trouville in 1884 and in 1885 began traveling to the Mediterranean coast of France. The French state purchased a painting of his from the Salon in 1884 and again in 1886. His wife died in 1889. Troubled by a painful nerve disorder, Boudin spent winters in the south of France during much of the 1890s, visited Venice three times and continued to visit Normandy in the summer. He continued to paint and travel nearly to the end of his life. Suffering from stomach cancer, he died in Deauville on August 8, 1898. (TNB 6/2013) Selected bibliography: Bergeret-Gourbin, Anne-Marie. Eugene Boudin: paintings and drawings. Honfleur: Societe des amis du Musee Eugene Boudin; Paris: Somogy Editions D’Art, 1996. Selz, Jean. E. Boudin. Translation by Shirley Jennings. New York: Crown Publishers, 1982. Sutton, Peter C. Boudin: Impressionist Marine Paintings. Exhibition catalog. Salem: Peabody Museum of Salem, 1991.