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Eugène Isabey
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Montevrain, france
Known as one of the best painters of marine scenes in 19th century France, painter and printmaker Eugene Isabey also created landscapes and genre scenes set in earlier periods of French history. Born in Paris, he was the son of the artist Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855) and received his early training from is father. As a teenager he traveled to Britain with the author Charles Nodier (1780-1844), where he became familiar with the watercolors of Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828), which would influence Isabey’s early work. He started printmaking in 1822 with a lithographic view of Venice after a work by his father (Curtis 1). His early trips to Normandy led to seascapes, which he exhibited together with landscapes in the official Salon of 1824. He would exhibit regularly at the Salon until 1878. Influenced by Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) and Théodore Géricault (1791-1824), Isabey developed a Romantic style for his landscapes and seascapes. In 1829 he traveled in the Auvergne in south-central France, making drawings that led to 17 lithographs (Curtis 29-45, 1830-32) of landscapes of the region that appeared in the volume on the Auvergne in Voyages pittoresques et romantiques dans l’ancienne France, edited by Baron Isidore Justin Séverin Taylor (1789-1879) with text by Nodier. Isabey created 13 lithographs in 1830 for the series Croquis par divers artistes (Sketches by various artists, Curtis 10-22). Isabey accompanied a French expedition to Algiers as the official artist in 1830 as well, and created six lithographs for a volume on the French in Africa. After his return he continued to find a market for marine scenes. The popularity of a genre scene he displayed at the 1831 Salon led him to expand his repertoire to include elegant genre scenes set in the 16th and 17th centuries. These works led to his appointment as a court painter to King Louis Philippe I (1773-1850). Isabey continued printmaking, issuing a set of five Souvenirs in 1832, including views of Caen, Rouen and Brittany (Curtis 58-62) and Six Marines with a frontispiece (1833, Curtis 63-69), perhaps some of his best graphic work. He created lithographs through the 1840s. As court painter Isabey recorded events involving the King in large paintings. Louis Philippe abdicated during the1848 revolution, but despite the loss of his court position Isabey was able to find a continuing market for his works. In 1856 he established a studio in Varengeville, on the Atlantic coast near Dieppe, and in his later years spent much of his time there, while maintaining a home in Paris. He produced watercolors of the Normandy countryside, marine views and colorful oils depicting violent events over the next decades. He traveled along the coast with Eugène Boudin (1824-1898) in the 1850s, greatly influencing that artist’s marine scenes. In the 1860s John Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891) was Isabey’s pupil while they both worked in cities along the Normandy coastline. He traveled to London in 1870, staying there until the following spring when he traveled to Brussels and then returned to Varengeville in the fall. By the end of the decade Isabey often spent winters in Nice. At some point he purchased a house in Montevrain, near Lagny on the Marne River, east of Paris. Suffering from the gout and other aliments, he was at this country home when he died in 1886. (TNB 8/2013) Selected bibliography: Miquel, Pierre. Eugène Isabey 1803–1886; La Marine au XIXe siècle. 2 vols. Maurs-la-Jolie: Editions de la Martinelle, 1980. Weitenkampf, Frank. “The Lithographs of Eugène Isabey,” in The Print Collector’s Quarterly, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 295-315 (October 1915). Wilson-Bareau, Juliet Degener, David C. Manet and the sea. Exhibition catalog. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago; Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art; Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum; New Haven: In association with Yale University Press, 2003.