EUGÈNE BOUDIN (1824-1898)
EUGÈNE BOUDIN (1824-1898)
EUGÈNE BOUDIN (1824-1898)
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EUGÈNE BOUDIN (1824-1898)

La plage de Trouville

EUGÈNE BOUDIN (1824-1898)
La plage de Trouville
signed, dated and inscribed ‘E. Boudin- Trouville 1863.’ (lower left)
oil on panel
13 3⁄4 x 22 7⁄8 in. (34.8 x 58 cm.)
Painted in 1863
Auguste Guerquin, Metz, by whom commissioned from the artist.
Wildenstein & Co., Paris & New York, by 1976.
Mr Julien Cornell, New York, by whom acquired from the above in 1977; sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 1 November 1978, lot 11.
The Lefevre Gallery [Alex Reid & Lefevre], London (no. 9139) & Acquavella Galleries, New York, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Acquired from the above by the present owner on 14 October 1980.
R. Schmit, Eugène Boudin, vol. I, Paris, 1973, no. 272, p. 87 (illustrated; with incorrect medium).
Art at Auction, The Year at Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1978-79, New York, 1979, p. 94 (illustrated).
Apollo, no. 213, London, November 1979, no. 3.
R. Schmit, Eugène Boudin, Premier supplément, Paris, 1984, no. 272, p. 135.
London, The Lefevre Gallery, A Group of French Paintings of the XIX and XX Centuries, November 1954 (ex. cat).
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Scenes of France, September - October 1976 (no cat.).
London, The Lefevre Gallery, An Exhibition of Important XIX & XX Century Paintings, November - December 1979, no. 2, p. 8 (illustrated p. 9; illustrated again on the cover).
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on loan, 1985-1986.
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Monet to Matisse: French Art in Southern California Collections, June - August 1991, p. 27 (illustrated).
Glasgow, Glasgow Museums, The Burrell Collection, Boudin at Trouville, November 1992 - February 1993, no. 26, pp. 62 & 67 (illustrated p. 62; with incorrect medium); this exhibition later travelled to London, Courtauld Institute Galleries, March - May 1993.
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, on long term loan, 1999-2003.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

La plage de Trouville is one of the finest of Eugène Boudin’s famed scenes of Trouville, the elegant seaside resort on the Normandy coast which he depicted throughout his career. One of the first artists to paint en plein air, Boudin, whom Claude Monet hailed as his ‘Master’, was one of the most important precursors of Impressionism. Shunning his studio, he devoted himself to the depiction of the natural world, or in his words, to ‘the simple beauties of nature,’ capturing the changing atmospheric conditions and light effects of the northern coastline of France.

As the present work masterfully shows, Boudin was ahead of his time in terms both of his subject matter and his artistic handling. He sought to capture the transient effects of atmosphere, seeking, for example, to render the momentary shadow of a passing cloud, or to show the effect of the coastal breeze blowing through his scene. As clouds scud across the midday sky, in the present work, the tricolore flags that line the beach are shown rippling in the wind, white crests form upon the breaking waves, while a promenading woman’s dress, sash and hat are captured in flux, ruffled by the offshore breeze. Boudin’s evident desire to portray the landscape not as a hermetic, static, classically-composed vista, but instead to depict it as a snapshot of everyday reality would form the central tenet of Impressionism, which came to prominence in the early 1870s.

In addition, Boudin was also captivated by the influx of wealthy, well-dressed bourgeoisie who holidayed in Trouville, Deauville, and other fashionable resorts along the coast. Instead of depicting the rural landscape, he turned his brush to these new visitors as they paraded in their finery along the board walk and beaches. Dogs, children, couples, even a rider mounted on a horse, fill the expansive composition of the present work, each rendered with a distinct individuality. As such, Boudin’s art aptly portrays this aspect of contemporary life in nineteenth-century France. The frieze-like arrangement of figures is visually contrasted by the buildings that line the coast. While he frequently portrayed groups of people isolated upon the beach, the present work is rare in providing a backdrop to the scenes that played out there. This newly developed part of Trouville was known as the quartier des bains, and featured distinctive buildings such as the hexagonal tower, as well as the Hôtel de la Mer and the casino. Boudin closely cropped this bank of buildings; they intersect the composition with a dynamism that was radical for the time. 

Born to a sea captain in Honfleur, before later moving to Le Havre, Boudin knew this coastal area well. It has been suggested that it was the marine painter, Eugène Isabey who, in 1863, first encouraged Boudin to take the novel trend of Parisian holidaymakers in the fashionable port town of Trouville as the subject of his work. Most likely spurred on by his friend, the poet, Charles Baudelaire, and his fervent belief in the need for artists to take modern life as their subject, Boudin broke with convention by depicting, with detached observation, contemporary life in his pictures. In 1868 he wrote, ‘[I have been congratulated] for daring to include the things and people of our own time in my pictures…don’t these bourgeois, who stroll on the jetty towards the sunset, have the right to be fixed on canvas, to be brought into the light’ (quoted in V. Hamilton, Boudin at Trouville, exh. cat., Glasgow Museums, 1992, p. 20).

Combining his love and innate knowledge of the coast with a sharp and perceptive gaze upon those that populated it, Boudin conceived a new type of landscape painting, one that was inherently rooted in contemporary life. It was this innovative approach both to the style and subject of the landscape that proved so influential and inspiring to the young Monet, as well as to the subsequent generation of Impressionist painters. ‘Do as I did – learn to draw well and admire the sea, the light, the blue sky’, Monet later remembered Boudin telling him, adding, ‘I owe everything to Boudin and am grateful to him for my success’ (quoted in ibid., p. 44).

Monet’s own views of Trouville from the 1870s demonstrate the clear inspiration he derived from Boudin. Monet and his young family travelled to the coast in the summer of 1870, during which he painted a number of works that depict similar subjects and vistas to Boudin’s work. Monet’s La Plage à Trouville (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford), shares a comparable composition to the present work, featuring the same stretch of buildings, including the recognisable tower. Likewise, Monet’s handling shares the essential elements of Boudin’s own style, his direct and instinctive brushstrokes filling the composition with the atmosphere of this breezy, sunny day.

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