Eugène Boudin (July 12, 1824 - August 8, 1898) was one of the first French landscape painters to paint outdoors.
Born at Honfleur, Normandy, the son of a pilot, he was cabin-boy for a while on board the rickety steamer that plied between Havre and Honfleur across the estuary of the Seine. But before old age came on him, Boudin's father abandoned seafaring, and the son gave it up too, having of course no real vocation for it, though he preserved to his last days much of a sailor's character, frankness, accessibility, open-heartedness.
In 1835 his family moved to Le Havre, where his father established himself as stationer and frame-maker. He began work the next year as an assistant in a stationery and framing store before opening his own small shop. There he came into contact with artists working in the area and exhibited in his shop the paintings of Constant Troyon and Jean-François Millet who, along with Eugène Isabey and Couture whom he also met at this time, encouraged the young Boudin to follow an artistic career. At the age of twenty-two he abandoned the world of commerce, taking up painting full time, and traveled to Paris the following year and then through Flanders. In 1850 he earned a scholarship that enabled him to move to Paris permanently although he often returned to paint in Normandy and, from 1855, made regular trips to Brittany.
Dutch seventeenth century masters had a profound influence upon him and, on meeting the Dutch painter Jongkind, who had already made his mark in French artistic circles, Boudin was advised by his new friend to work en plein air. He also worked with Troyon and Isabey and in 1859 met Gustave Courbet who introduced him to Charles Baudelaire, the first critic to draw Boudin’s talents to public attention when the artist made his debut at the 1859 Paris Salon.
In 1857 Boudin met Claude Monet who spent several months working directly with Boudin in his studio. The two remained lifelong friends and Monet later paid tribute to Boudin’s early influence. Boudin joined Monet and his young friends in what was to be called the First Impressionist exhibition in 1874 but never really considered himself a radical or innovator.
Boudin’s growing reputation enabled him to travel extensively in the 1870s; he visited Belgium, Holland, and southern France, and from 1892 to 1895 made regular trips to Venice. He continued to exhibit at the Salons, receiving a third place medal at the Salon of 1881, and a gold medal at the 1889 Exposition Universelle. In 1892 Boudin was made a knight of the Légion d'honneur, a somewhat tardy recognition of his talents and influence on the art of his contemporaries.
Old age found him strong and receptive. Only in the very last year of his life was there perceptible a positive deterioration. Not very long before it, Boudin, in a visit to Venice, had produced impressions of Venice for which much more was to be said than that they were not Ziems. And the deep colouring of the South, on days when the sunshine blazes least, had been caught by him and presented nobly at Antibes and Villefranche.
At last, resorting to the south again as a refuge from ill-health, and recognizing soon that the relief it could give him was almost spent, he resolved that it should not be for him, in the words of Maurice Barrès, a tombefleurie, and he returned, hastily, weak and sinking, to his home at Deauville, that he might at least die within sight of Channel waters and under Channel skies.
As a marine painter more properly as a painter of subjects in which water must have some part, and as curiously expert in the rendering of all that goes upon the sea, and as the painter too of the green banks of tidal rivers and of the long-stretched beach, with crinolined Parisienne noted as ably as the sailor-folk--Boudin stands alone. Beside him others are apt to seem rather theatricalor if they do not romance they appear, perhaps, to chronicle dully. The pastels of Boudin--summary and economic--at a time when his painted work was less free--obtained the splendid eulogy of Baudelaire, and it was no other than Corot who, before his pictures, said to him: "You are the master of the sky."