Did you know that Claude Monet may not have been “Claude Monet” without the artist Eugene Boudin. Boudin nurtured Monet early in his painting career and showed him the light. Literally.
The image associated with the French Impressionists is of an artist outdoors and at their easel. All is still and calm, a gentle breeze flowing over grass or a river is the only movement. The artist studies the quality of sunlight and how it affects the warmth of color and the reflection of water. Impressionists were the champions of en plein air painting, a style that encouraged experiencing the landscape while capturing it on canvas. Claude Monet, one of the vanguards of the movement, especially promoted the technique. Monet was introduced to en plein air by a sadly overlooked artist at the time, Eugene Boudin. Without Boudin’s influence and support, Monet would not have been the painter that is known today.
Boudin grew up in Normandy near the sea. While he never became a seafarer like his father, the ocean remained a muse for much of his career. Boudin befriended many artists and taught himself to paint. His seascapes displayed a cunning eye and fascinating perspective in a cultural shift. During his lifetime, beaches were transforming from workplaces for fisherman into recreational spaces enjoyed by everyone. Painting outdoors was the only way for Eugene Boudin to capture these subtleties. He was so enthusiastic of the technique that he often chronicled weather and time on the backs of his canvases.
Boudin and Monet were friends since the start of Monet’s career. When Monet was a young man, he made a name for himself by sketching caricatures in Paris. Eugene Boudin felt that Monet was not pushing himself to his full potential. He encouraged Monet to paint with him on the seacoast. The hope was to show his friend the importance of painting landscapes and seascapes outside. He wanted to prove how lighting changed mood and provided character. Above all else, he wanted Monet’s talent to blossom. Monet followed Boudin’s advice and this launched the rest of his career.
Eugene Boudin was never fully integrated with the other Impressionists. He exhibited with them in 1874, but remained apart from the rest of the movement. In 1892 he was recognized for both his profound impact on the art community and the quality of his own paintings.