Arts Everyday Living: Boudin, the Original French Impressionist, Takes Us On a Trip to the Beach

Eugene Boudin, Beach at Trouville, 1864/1865, oil on wood, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washgint, D.C.

Title: Beach at Trouville

Artist: Eugene Boudin (1824-1898)

If I have become a painter I owe it to Eugene Boudin.

Claude Monet

Tourism and vacations by the ocean were a relatively new experience around the mid-nineteenth century when Beach at Trouville was created by Eugene Boudin, an early mentor of future Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926). Both artists were from Le Havre on the Normandy coast, the older Boudin encouraging an 18 year old Claude to use nature as his inspiration, especially the sea. Boudin’s marine scenes have been popular with viewers and collectors like Paul Mellon and his sister Ailsa Mellon Bruce, whose contribution to the National Gallery of Art, now includes a core of numerous paintings, watercolors, and drawings at the museum.

Is it the figures that attract us initially?  Either sitting in their solid wooden chairs or strolling or riding across the sandy beach. Their attire distinctly different from 21s century bathers. For instance, the women clothed in long  flowing dresses and  matching capes, the height of fashion then. Hats, too, imperative as well as parasols, so essential to protecting their owners from the sun. Even the children are bundled up against the elements: the tiny toddler in white, accompanying his mother while holding a shovel or the two boys (one in a read-orange top) playing closer to the waves.

Does anyone own that spaniel-like dog in the front? Possibly a pet?  Or maybe s a local canine denizen of Trouville who has happened to wander into the area?

Yet, the  spectacular view of the sky and water fills up almost three quarters of the canvas: from the  sailboats speeding across the horizon, pushed by the wind to the swirling mass of  rather ominous clouds above. Perhaps signaling the approach of an impending  storm? Or will the prospect of inclement weather quickly pass? Guaranteeing the uninterrupted pleasure of these long ago tourists, who like us, simply wanted to enjoy  a leisurely summer day without worries or cares.


In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

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