Freeman's

Department Specialist


Published: 7 March 2017

The Enduring Legacy of Eugène Boudin

“I owe everything to Boudin, and I am grateful to him for my success.” - Claude Monet

Born in Honfleur, the Normandy port town two hours northwest of Paris, Eugène Boudin is one of the most acclaimed marine and landscape painters, though his name is often overshadowed by the artists he inspired. The sea was in his blood from birth; the son of a harbor captain, Boudin would accompany his father on the steamboat ferry between Le Havre and Honfleur as a cabin boy. That Boudin would go on to capture the majesty of the sea so exquisitely and so extensively seems a natural progression, but he did not begin painting seriously until his early 20s. It wasn’t until 1850, after being given a three year scholarship from the town of Le Havre, that he moved to Paris to study and copy paintings at the Louvre.

A Poet’s Praise
The Dutch painter Johan Johgkind first encouraged Boudin to work outdoors, en plein air, a direct departure from the conventional, studio-based mode of the time, and a move that would foreshadow the Impressionist movement. Boudin created sketches, finely detailed pencil drawings, and watercolors at the seaside, and returned to Paris to complete the full paintings in his studio in the winters. Boudin’s skill at capturing the changing effects of light on the water and the sky are a hallmark of his work. The artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot once called him “le roi des ciels” (the king of the skies), and Boudin’s submissions to the 1859 Paris Salon garnered praise from the poet Charles Baudelaire:

“All these fantastically shaped, luminous clouds, this chaotic darkness, these immense expanses of green and pink, each hung and added on to the next…all these depths, all these splendors, go to my head like an intoxicating liquor or like the eloquence of opium…It's a curious thing, but it never occurred to me once, in front of these liquid or aerial wonders, to complain about the absence of man.”

The Man Before Monet
The open and luminous quality of Boudin’s works was a particular influence for the young Claude Monet, who met Boudin at age 17 and worked alongside him. Under Boudin’s tutelage, Monet moved away from caricature art, and began painting landscapes en plein air, learning to appreciate and capture the distinct effects of light that would define his style and later vault him to prominence.

Boudin was invited by Monet to participate in the first independent exhibition of the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, et Graveurs ("Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers"), in 1874, along with Renoir, Sisley, Cézanne, Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, and Edgar Degas. It was from a critique of this exhibit—which was staged to be a rejection of the conventions of the Paris Salon—that the term “Impressionist” first arose (though it was not initially intended as a compliment, or even a moniker).

Today, Boudin’s work commands impressive prices at auction, and is on view at museums around the world, most notably the museum that bears his name, in his hometown of Honfleur. Boudin, while not labeled as a being one of the Impressionist group of painters, left an indelible mark on the movement and his paintings, along with his legacy, endure in their own right.

Works by Eugène Boudin have met with great success at auction. Freeman's has been honored to offer works such as “Environs de Trouville,” which formed part of The Brewster Collection and brought $87,500, as well as “Estuary With Sailboats and Lighthouses” from the notable George D. Horst Collection of Fine Art, which sold for $170,500. This summer, we will once again have the privilege of offering one of Boudin's paintings at auction, when his "Rivage aux Environs de Trouville" will be offered in the June 12 auction of European Art & Old Masters.

Curious what your fine art will bring at auction? Freeman’s provides auction estimate services for single items to large collections. We are currently accepting fine European and Old Master paintings, prints, illustrations, drawings and sculpture for our June auction. Contact a specialist for your private, complimentary appointment:

David Weiss | 267.414.1214 | dweiss@freemansauction.com

Images: Eugène Boudin (French 1824-1898) “Environs de Trouville;” and to be offered 06/12/17: Eugène Boudin (French 1824-1898) "Rivage aux Environs de Trouville"

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