Eugene Boudin and Claude Monet: the two geniuses united in one exhibition
The Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza offers visitors to discover the relationship between the great Impressionist painter Claude Monet and his teacher Eugène Boudin,
the most important representative of mid-19th-century French plein air painting,
in its monographic exhibition Monet / Boudin.
Who knows who Claude Monet would have become if not Eugene Boudin. This is the first opportunity to get to know how Boudin nurtured Monet early in his painting career and showed him the light. Literally.
The exhibition brings together around 100 works by the two artists, including loans from museums and institutions such as the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, the National Gallery, London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the MuseuNacional de Belas Artes, Río de Janeiro, and the Marunuma Art Park in Japan, as well as from private collections such as the Pérez Simón collection. These works review the careers of Boudin and Monet and show the origins of the Impressionist movement.
The exhibition is structured chronologically and thematically into eight sections. Monet / Boudin emphasises the two painters' shared artistic concerns such as their interest in the iconography of modern life as reflected in scenes of summer-holiday visitors on the beach at Trouville; changing effects of light, to be seen in most of their oils and pastels; and the largely untamed nature of the Brittany and Normandy coastlines.
The French painter, Claude Monet (
1840 — 1926,
France), one of the creators of Impressionism,
grew up in Le Havre,
where he met Boudin. The latter was aware of his talent,
but he did not think that Monet should devote his efforts to drawing caricatures. For this reason, Boudin
persuaded Monet to visit him in Normandy and they painted landscapes together.
Both artists painted outdoors and learnt a lot from each other. An example of the similarity between the works of the French artists can be seen in The Meuse at Dordrecht (
1882) by Boudin and in The Regatta at Saint-Adresse (
1867) by Monet.
Eugene Boudin. The Meuse at Dordrecht. 1882. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
Claude Monet. Regatta at Sainte-Adresse. 1867. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
Monet learned to depict light accurately, observing and composing landscapes from drawings and oil studies. After two years, he possessed enough skill to produce his first canvas intended for public exhibition: View near Rouelles (1858), which depicts the around Le Havre, as does Boudin’s Normandy (ca.1857−58). Both landscapes are balanced and relatively conventional in the arrangement of the motifs but they effectively capture bright daylight, one of Boudin’s ongoing artistic concerns which he passed on to his pupil Monet.
Over the following years, Monet followed Boudin in the of painters who reached their maturity in the 1830s such as Rousseau and Daubigny. His departure for Paris in 1859 could have removed him from the influence of Boudin but his frequent visits to Le Havre, their correspondence and the two painters' artistic output demonstrates the close links which they maintained. As a result, the initial relationship between mentor and pupil changed to one of mutual admiration and inspiration.
For both artists their evolution as marine painters was marked by their meeting in 1862 with the Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind, considered one of the forerunners of Impressionism along with Boudin. He advised them to paint their seascapes en plein air.
In addition to following Jongkind’s example, Monet also looked at Courbet and Manet’s marine views and began to produce large-scale compositions painted outdoors. One example is The Beach at Sainte-Adresse (1867), one of the most important works from his early phase. In this canvas, Monet employed cool, glittering tones which anticipate and distance him from the grey tonalities of Boudin’s works. Furthermore, while Boudin tended to separate local Normandy people from Parisians, Monet mixed them together as a single social reality.
Formerly a small fishing village with a long beach, Trouville rapidly became a tourist destination for the middle classes and the aristocracy. Boudin discovered it in the early 1860s and returned every summer to paint the port, quaysides, the River Touques and beach scenes. With the latter he aimed to appeal to a wider clientele, including the summer visitors to the town. However, the fact that Boudin emphasised effects of light and weather over picturesque details meant that these works did not achieve the desired result. One example is Concert at the Casino of Deauville, which he exhibited without success at the Paris Salon of 1865.
Over the years, he opted for smaller, more vibrant compositions aimed at a more limited group of collectors, and in 1870, he largely abandoned his beach scenes in order to focus more intensively on marine views, which were more in demand.
Monet and his family also moved to Trouville for the summer of 1870 where he tried out various beach scenes based on those of his teacher. However, in works such as Camille on the Beach at Trouville (1870) and The Beach at Trouville (1870), Boudin’s anonymous figures, always seen from a distance as elements in the , become specific individuals, including his wife Camille and Boudin’s wife Marie-Anne Guédès.
Claude Monet. Camille on the Beach at Trouville(1870)
Claude Monet. The Beach at Trouville(1870)
Around the late 1850s, Boudin started to produce pastel sky studies in which he made use of the material’s flexibility to rapidly capture the appearance of the sky at different times of the day, in different seasons and weather conditions. Among the new generation of artists it was Monet who derived the most direct lesson from these studies, producing more than 100 pastels during his career. The earliest make use of outlines to define the motifs but he soon moved towards simpler compositions based on two or three strips of colour dotted with small, secondary elements.
In recognition of his role in the emergence of Impressionism, Monet invited his teacher to take part in the First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874.
Boudin exhibited three canvases, four watercolours and six pastels. In addition to five canvases, Monet showed seven pastels, which can be seen as a homage to his mentor. Baptised "the King of the Skies" by Corot, Boudin continued to paint works of this type throughout his life, using brighter and more luminous colours in his late period and in the wake of Impressionism.
Left: Eugene Boudin at Deauville — Trouville
In the 1890s, Monet’s work underwent a fundamental shift when he started to produce series on a single motif, using a similar viewpoint but painted in different weather conditions and under different types of light. The origins of this concept are largely to be found in the atmospheric variations present in the studies by Boudin, whose interest in changing effects of light on the at different times of day already appears in his sketchbooks of the 1850s and in his pastel sky studies.
In 1878, Monet started to paint various groups of canvases in Vétheuil, including Arm of the Seine near Vétheuil (1878) and The Flood (1881), although the group of works that comes closest to his later series, is the 16 oils on the Seine thawing in 1880.
In the late 1870s, Monet and Boudin’s friendship started to cool. This may have been due to Monet’s relationship with Alice Hoschedé before the death of his wife Camille, whom Boudin greatly appreciated, or to the economic crisis of 1875 which seriously affected the art market. Boudin nonetheless maintained his admiration for his former pupil and numerous works from the 1880s and 1890s reveal their shared interests, for example their views of the Normandy cliffs and the Brittany coastline.
After Boudin’s death in 1898, Monet entered the organising committee of the posthumous exhibition devoted to him. Years later when rereading his correspondence with his master, he acknowledged that Boudin had been one of the first to recognise his abilities and had professed a constant admiration for him. In 1920, Monet fully recognised the importance of Boudin when his told his biographer Gustave Geffroy "I have said it and I say it again: I owe everything to Boudin."
The exhibition will be on view from 26 June to 30 September 2018 at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.
Based on materials from official site of the museum, Artnews
Title illustration: Above: Eugène Boudin, ‘The Eure Bassin at Le Havre,' 1885 (detail) Musée d’Art, Histoire et Archéologie, Évreux (France) © Jean-Pierre Godais. Musée d’Art, Histoire et Archéologie, Ville d'Évreux; Below: Claude Monet, ‘The Flood,' 1881 (detail) Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck / Collection Rau for UNICEF. Remagen, Germany © Peter Schälchli, Zurich