Stormy Weather Suited
‘King of the Skies’
“Marée Montante à Deauville” (1894). © Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid
Eugène Boudin may not have considered himself an Impressionist, but, in a way, this master of light, the “king of the skies,” was the father of them all, and the current show of his work at the Musée Jacquemart-André shows that when this plein air painter let himself go, he was as impressive as the best of them.
Unfortunately, Boudin (1824-98), did not let himself go very often, at least not as far as we can see in this exhibition. He had to make a living, and his clients preferred his postcard-perfect views of landscapes. While these are pretty to look at, especially because of his talent for capturing light effects, they feel controlled and tight, and can be a bit leaden on the canvas. What a difference from those pictures in which he loosened his grip on the brushes and freed his eye from the constraints of reality. Look at “Falaises et Barques Jaunes à Etretat” (1890 or ’91), with its swirling skies tinged with yellow, echoing the bright splash of the color on the boat on the left; the stormy “Marée Montante à Deauville” (1894) (Baudelaire, an admirer of Boudin’s paintings of changing weather, called them “beautés météorologiques”) or even the delightful “Vaches dans un Pré au Bord de la Mer” (1880-88) at the beginning of the show.
As far as his influence on the Impressionists goes, need we say more than that he was Claude Monet’s mentor, the one who
“Plage aux Environs de Trouville” (1864). © 2012 Art Gallery of Ontario
encouraged him to give up his work as a caricaturist to become a painter and who initiated him into the practice of painting en plein air. “I consider Eugène Boudin my master,” said Monet, and, “I owe everything to Boudin.” Monet also followed Boudin’s practice of painting the same scene more than once in differing light conditions, although the acolyte took the idea and ran with it, going far beyond Boudin’s few versions of a scene and painting such famed series as his views of Rouen Cathedral and haystacks in a field.
This exhibition even makes an indirect link from Boudin to abstraction through Monet and Kandinsky, who was supposedly inspired by Monet’s multiple haystack paintings – some of Boudin’s works in this show do indeed near abstraction, notably “Le Pointe du Raz” (1897).
Two sketchy paintings of Honfleur included in the show, one of which was long attributed to Monet because it bore the stamp of his atelier (probably unknowingly added posthumously by the artist’s son) is now attributed to Boudin. According to the exhibition’s curator, this is evidence of the wrong done to Boudin by some critics, who considered him a petit maître (minor master) but were nevertheless willing to accept this painting as being by the great Monet.
Boudin, a hard worker who came to painting at the rather late age of 24, was perhaps not a great master, but he had moments of greatness that make this exhibition well worth seeing, especially since over half of the works have never before been exhibited in France.
Musée Jacquemart-André: 158, boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris. Métro: Saint-Augustin, Miromesnil or Saint-Philippe du Roule. RER: Charles de Gaulle-Étoile. Tel.: 01 45 62 11 59. Open daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (until 8:30pm on Monday and Saturday). Admission: €11. Through July 22, 2013. www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com
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