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Eugène Boudin

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Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer


Boudin (France, 1824–1898)
People on the Beach,
(Personnages sur la plage, Trouville), 1866
Watercolor on paper
5 5/8 x 10 7/8 in.
Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer Bequest, 2000


By the 1860s, the fishing village of Trouville-sur-Mer in Normandy had become a popular resort for the French aristocracy and bourgeoisie thanks to the expansion of railway service that allowed Parisians to reach the village in approximately six hours. The popularity of the resort drew the attention of a number of artists, particularly Eugène Louis Boudin, who favored the skies and waters of the Normandy coastline. Boudin’s father had been a maritime pilot, and the artist developed a fascination for the seascapes of seventeenth-century Dutch Old Masters early in his career. Personnages sur la plage, Trouville, however, demonstrates more interest in the fashionable tourists who sit under colorful umbrellas to watch the waves and the distant sailboats. Flags of various nations fly at right in recognition of Trouville’s status as an international destination.

Boudin often painted en plein air, and he almost certainly produced this watercolor of beachgoers on the spot, given its spontaneity and the annotations he placed in the composition. His improvisational approach, his attention to subtle details of light and atmosphere, and his interest in modern life earned the sympathy of the Impressionists. He would participate in the first exhibit of the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers) in 1874, later known as the first exhibit of the Impressionists, although he never officially joined the group.