Richard Parkes Bonington
- Richard Parkes Bonington
- PORT DE PECHE, BOULOGNE, FRANCE
- later inscribed l.r. R.P.B.
- watercolour over pencil with scratching out and touches of red bodycolour on laid paper, held in a French Neoclassical frame
P. Noon, Richard Parkes Bonington: The Complete Paintings, 2008, p. 83, no. 1
In the 1991 exhibition catalogue Patrick Noon described the present work by Bonington as 'a rare survival of an unfaded early sheet.' Painted soon after the artist's arrival in France in the autumn of 1817, the watercolour illustrates the small port of Boulogne in Normandy. Bonington's contemporaries noted the dramatic change that the port had undertaken during Napoleon's reign, the Duke of Rutland in particular remarked in 1815 that 'it is surprising, when it is considered that what was formerly a simple and contemptible inlet.... is now an excellent harbour... capable of containing three hundred vessels.' 
Bonington was only fifteen years old when he executed this watercolour. He was clearly delighted by the challenge presented by the intricate shapes of the boats, with their elegant rigging. He expertly also captures the warm, subtle light which suffuses this landscape. It appears that the initials visible at the lower right were later added by another hand.
 The Duke of Rutland, Journal of a short trip to Paris during the summer of 1815, 1815, p. 7