Eugène Boudin (1824 Honfleur - 1898 Deauville)
Oil on canvas ; signed "E Boudin" at the lower right ; 23.5 x 41.5 cm
Paris, Gustave Cahen collection ; Paris, Drouot, 5th June 1929 ; London, Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery ; London, private collection ; Paris, Le Polyptyque collection ; Paris, private collection
Robert Schmit, Eugène Boudin, vol. I, Paris, 1973, n° 711.
Comparative bibliography : Denise Delouche, "Les peintres et la Bretagne vers 1870", Annales de Bretagne, vol. 77, n° 2, 1970, p. 417-470.
Eugène Boudin occupies a special place in Impressionism. Too young to follow Corot (he would meet him later) and the painters of Barbizon. Half a generation older than Monet and his friends, whom he frequented without joining them completely (even though he participated in their first exhibition, in 1874, and shared the same dealer, Durand-Ruel).
In 1871 he was 47 years old, the middle of his life. He painted a lot of popular beaches, especially Trouville. But the Second Empire was defeated, France was occupied, and elegant women hardly went out anymore. And then, he said, "this beach of Trouville which used to be my delight now looks like an awful masquerade. It takes almost genius to take advantage of this bunch of lazy poseurs" (Georges Jean-Aubry, Eugène Boudin d'après des documents inédits, Paris, 1922). So he travelled, first to Brittany, his wife's country, precisely here in the surroundings of Plougastel. Later on, in Antwerp, in Holland, and up to Venice, the series of ports.
It is the autumn of 1871. The hour is dark. More than the shimmering of Impressionism, it is to the harsh workmanship, the rough tones of Courbet, whom he met in 1859, that this landscape refers, of which we find an equivalent, in the state of a study (the same rocks seen in the opposite direction) in the museum of Le Havre.
Denise Delouche has well described the painter's method at this time : "Boudin, like Corot, knows how to choose the point of view, the location of his easel in such way that the canvas is already composed, it is the curve of a shoreline or the oblique of a mass of rocks that link the background to the foreground." In the open air, as in this painting, the painter starts from what he sees, and moves the frame as he pleases (as in photography : it is no coincidence that the first Impressionist exhibition took place in Nadar's studio).
Gustave Cahen, a great Impressionist collector, executor of the will and first biographer of the artist, was the first owner of this painting, which was sent to England after the sale of his collections in 1929.