Boudin's reverence and devotion to his native coastal town of Honfleur, as well as his interest in depicting scenes of modernity and outdoor activity, manifested in his myriad paintings of beach scenes. These iconic portrayals came to define Boudin's output, as he admitted in a letter to his brother in November 1865: "I shall do other things, but I will always be the painter of beaches" (quoted in G. Jean-Aubry, Eugène Boudin, d'après des documents inédits, Paris, 1922, p. 62).
From the early 1860s onward, Boudin unswervingly and prolifically painted the beach at Trouville, depicting the leisure activities of fashionably-dressed bourgeoisie. These lighthearted and buoyant scenes created a counterbalance to the pictures of peasants he so frequently painted during trips to his wife's native Brittany. Following Charles Baudelaire's appeal for a painter of modern life, the beaches at Trouville provided the perfect environment for such a task. In 1863, a railway station opened in the beach town, providing the city dwellers rapid transport to holidays of frolicking and socializing. Boudin delighted in depicting these social interactions and the minute details of his subjects: the hoop-like crinoline skirts, water-soaked dogs running down the beach, children crouching by the shore, elegant striped umbrellas shading the patrons.
The present work has a notable history. Frank and Florence J. Gould acquired the work from their friend and advisor, Daniel Wildenstein. Frank Gould, son of railroad magnate Jay Gould, received a substantial inheritance upon the early death of his father. Wealthy in her own right, his wife Florence was born to the famed French publisher Maximilien Lacaze and raised in San Francisco. When they married she abandoned her career as an opera singer and they left America to reside permanently on the Côte d'Azur, where they became influential members of the social elite. It was during their time as expatriates that they built an important collection of Impressionist and nineteenth century pictures. Scène de plage was subsequently acquired by the current owner from a 1985 sale of Florence J. Gould's collection to benefit her foundation dedicated to fostering Franco-American relations.