NEW YORK, NY -- When we look at Eugène Boudin’s work, we instinctively associate him with the Impressionists. Here are the same delicious touches of the brush, the same plein-air atmosphere, the same feeling of capturing the “impression” of a passing moment. However, although Boudin took part in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1873, he never thought of himself as a rebel against the classic traditions of French painting.
Boudin was something of a late bloomer. Born in Honfleur on the Norman coast in 1824, he only began to study painting formally in 1850, when he was already 26. This was in the Paris studio of the Romantic history painter Eugène Isabey, a thoroughly established artist who enjoyed the patronage of the French royal family. Ever convivial, Boudin also made friends with a number of other artists during the 1850s, and he learned from all of them. Among these was the Dutch landscape painter Johan Jongkind – a fellow student in Isabey’s atelier – who first encouraged him to paint outdoors, a practice that Boudin soon embraced with enthusiasm.
To supplement his income, he began to make trips home to Normandy to paint the delightful beach scenes that became his stock in trade and remain his best known works today. On a trip to Le Harvre around 1856 he met Claude Monet, still a teenager, who had been studying drawing at a local art school. Sixteen years older than Monet, Boudin played an avuncular role in Monet's life, introducing him to oil painting and persuading him to turn his hand to landscapes. The two remained lifelong friends.
Boudin was fascinated by several themes to which he returned repeatedly throughout his life. These include not only his iconic beach scenes, but also views of ports, river landscapes and market scenes, one of which will be offered at Doyle on September 17, 2020.
Le Marché, circa 1888-1895, is a striking example of its type. Although the exact setting is not certain, it bears a resemblance to a number of views that the artist painted of the fish market at Trouville over a period of years. As with so many of Boudin’s paintings, the composition is essentially horizontal, but it is articulated and enlivened with emphatic vertical forms. On the left of this scene a massive building rises like a cliff on one side of the square while on the right a tall thicket of trees faces it across that open space, which is filled with people coming to market. As in almost all of Boudin’s depictions of crowds, the activity takes place at some distance from the viewer, and the people shown are turned away, oblivious to our observation of them. The setting and the figures are laid out in small, rapid strokes, which create a scintillating feeling of movement.
Is this Impressionism? Not quite. We can see so much here that prefigured that style. What we don’t see are the chromatic juxtapositions that ushered in the new world of Impressionist color. But we do see something marvelous. The people who fill this bustling market seem to be an emanation of the natural world, like the sea and the sky. They embody the restless movement, the ancient ebb and flow of the tides of human life.
A highlight of the Important Paintings auction on September 17, 2020 is Le Marché, circa 1888-1895, from the Collection of Dr. Abraham & Carolyn Schlossman.