Eugène Boudin was a French landscape and marine artist in the 1800’s, and one of the first French artists who practiced his craft outdoors. He loved to paint the sea, bringing it and the seashore to life against the drama of the open skies. Landscape artist, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was quoted as saying to Boudin, “You are the master of the sky” as he gazed at Boudin’s paintings.
Boudin was born in Honfleur, a beautiful old port in northwestern France. His father, being a seafaring man, had taken Boudin to sea also, which had a great effect on Boudin, instilling in him a love and respect for the sea. In 1835, deciding to settle himself on land before he got too old, Boudin’s father moved his family to Le Harve and opened a stationer and frame shop.
Boudin studied the new family business, and in time opened his own framing store; it was then that he met artists like Jean-Francois Millet, Constant Troyon and Thomas Couture who would exhibit their paintings in his shop. They encouraged and convinced Boudin that an artist’s career was in his future, and so he gave up his business and began to paint full-time. A year later Boudin left Le Harve to travel to Paris and then on to Flanders along the North Sea. He was only 22 years of age.
He was 25 when he received a scholarship which afforded him to move back to Paris and study there. Longing to paint the seascapes that he loved he would travel back and forth to Normandy; in 1855 he began to travel to Brittany in northwest France. It was the ideal place for Boudin to paint, as Brittany was bordered by the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Boudin’s circle of artist friends grew, and he garnered helpful advice and contacts through them. In 1856 he spent several months working in his studio with Claude Monet, becoming good friends with him. Dutch artist Johan Jongkind encouraged him to paint his landscapes en plien air, and in 1859 he was introduced to art critic Charles Baudelaire through his new acquaintance with Gustave Courbet. That was the year Boudin participated in the Paris Salon exhibition, which was his first, and gained public attention through Baudelaire.
He continued to present his work over the years, earning a bronze medal in 1881 at the Paris Salon and and a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in 1889. The largest honor came in 1892 when he was chosen to receive the status of Knight of the Legion d’ honneur, which is the highest decoration given in France. It came as a recognition of not only Boudin’s exceptional talents as an artist but recognition of the beneficial influence he had had on the artists of his time.
Boudin’s ill-health brought him back to the south of France in his later years, but he chose to move one last time to Deauville, in lower Normandy, where he could enjoy watching the sea and the sky until his very last day. Eugène Boudin, landscape and seascape artist, died on the 8th of August, 1898.