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Eugène Boudin (French, 1824-1898)
Property from a Private New York Estate
Eugène Boudin (French, 1824-1898)

Village aux environs de Dunkerque

Eugène Boudin (French, 1824-1898)
Village aux environs de Dunkerque
signed and dated 'Boudin. 89' (lower right)
oil on canvas
16 x 21 ¾ in. (40.6 x 55.2 cm.)
with Galerie Tempelaere, Paris.
with W. Scott & Sons, Montréal.
Mr. MacDougall, Montréal, acquired directly from the above.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 6 May 1998, lot 187.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
R. Schmit, Eugène Boudin, Paris, 1973, vol. III, p. 15, no. 2581, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

Eugène Boudin was born in Honfleur on the Normandy coast and remained in his native province his entire life. The son of a sailor, he began to work in a stationary shop when he was twelve, where the shopkeeper gave the child his first art lessons, and Boudin remained there until he was eighteen. He then set up his own shop and sold supplies to artists, including Constant Troyon, Eugène Isabey, Thomas Couture and Jean-François Millet. Always interested in painting and drawing, the young Boudin exhibited small works in his shop. From 1847 to 1848 he spent most of his time in Paris where he spent long hours in the Louvre and he was again in Paris from 1851 to 1854 for formal study, financed by a grant from the municipality of Honfleur. Although much of his early work is lost, it appears that while he was in Paris he made numerous still lifes of fish and game inspired by Dutch and Flemish painting of the 17th century and by French painting of the 18th century. He was encouraged to do this by his friend Théodule Ribot. His first exhibition in Paris was at the Concert Musard in 1857, and following year Boudin made the acquaintance of Claude Monet in Le Havre who became a life-long friend. In 1859, Boudin met Courbet and Baudelaire, who were among the first to recognize his talent. The same year, he exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon, and he was a regular participant until 1897. In 1881, the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel bought the entire contents of his studio and became his dealer, affording the artist substantial financial stability. Despite painting incessantly throughout his career, Boudin received no official honors until the end of his career. However, this changed in the 1880s, a decade which brought new successes and awards, and in 1889, the year of the present picture, Boudin received the gold medal at the Exposition universelle.
Boudin is often regarded and the bridge between the landscape painting of the generation of Corot and the Impressionists. One of the first to paint directly from nature, Boudin once declared that three brushstrokes made outdoors were greater than days’ worth of grafting in the studio. The poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire, upon seeing a group of Boudin sky sketches wrote, ‘In the end all those clouds with their fantastical formations and lighting effects, the chaotic shadows, those green and rose immensities suspended and superimposed on one another, the yawning furnaces, the firmaments of crumpled, curled or torn black and violet satin, the horizons in mourning or streaming with molten metal, all these depths, all these splendors arise in the brain like strong drink or eloquence of opium’. He continued, ‘I have no doubt that in time he will capture the magic of air and water in finished works as well as in sketches’.
In the last two decades of his life, Boudin often adopted a very broad and sketchy technique that clearly owes something to his younger Impressionist colleagues. In Village aux environs de Dunkerque, quick, short brushstrokes create the figure by the edge of the river, give form to the buildings of the village and the steeple of the church, and capture the atmosphere of a sunny afternoon. Although the landscape is rendered in this abbreviated brushwork, the sky is quintessential Boudin; the clouds are broken by patches of blue, creating movement and a softened light that pervades the landscape below, overpowering the human presence depicted in the foreground and focusing the eye of the view increasingly on the grandeur of the landscape, sky and weather.

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