- Eugène Boudin
Sur la plage à Trouville
Signed E. Boudin (lower left) and dated Trouville 74 (lower right)
- Oil on panel
- 6 1/2 by 14 in.
- 16.5 by 35.5 cm
Sarah Heard Lewis, Portland, Oregon (acquired in Paris before 1930)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Trouville, situated at the mouth of the river Touques in Normandy, was a small village that became a fashionable and elegant summer retreat for both Parisians and English visitors alike during the 1820s. From the 1860s through the 1890s, Boudin traveled to Trouville every year, painting the beach scenes for which he is best known. In Sur la plage à Trouville, a group of elegantly attired women sit along the shore, the view of the ocean barely visible through their crinoline dresses. This horizontal arrangement of the composition, strengthened by the proximity of the figures to the magnificent clouds, emphasizes the grandeur of the skyline. Boudin often dedicated half of his canvases to an expansive, cloud-filled sky. As Gustave Courbet, exclaimed, ''My God, you are a seraph, Boudin! You are the only one of us who really knows the sky'' (quoted in Ruth J. Benjamin, Eugène Boudin, New York, 1937, p. 46).
In describing Boudin's subjects, Le Pichon states: "Boudin blended them all with the elements - the dry and damp sands and the air saturated with sea spray. He turned his models into vibrating plays of light and colors" (ibid., p. 82). The lowering clouds and windswept parasols convey a strong sense of the season, and the whole scene is imbued with quick, classically Impressionistic brushstrokes.
Boudin often worked on location, believing that "Everything that is painted on the spot has always a strength, a power, a vividness of touch that one doesn't find again in one's studio" (quoted in Yann Le Pichon, The Real World of the Impressionists, New York, 1983, p. 79). This approach to painting was, at the time, revolutionary. Claude Monet responded to Boudin's methodology and was soon joining the artist on the beaches of Trouville. After meeting Boudin in Le Havre in the late 1850s, Monet wrote "My eyes were really opened and I finally understood Nature. I learned at the same time to love it" (Quoted in Maria Costantino, The Impressionists, Secaucus, 1993, p. 39). Boudin's lessons in spontaneity inspired Monet and many artists of the younger generation to continue painting, not only sketching, en plein air and to pursue their interest in painting "impressions" of nature, using looser brushstrokes and luminous tonalities. Boudin has long been considered among the most influential figures to the Impressionists.
The first American owner of the present work, Sarah Heard, was the granddaughter of Captain John Heard Couch, famous pioneer and one of the founding fathers of Portland, Oregon. Captain Couch was born in Newburyport, MA, and in 1845 he sailed around Cape Horn and eventually up the Willamette River, and helped to settle Portland. His legacy includes the subdivision and plotting of 640 acres of northwest Portland, "Couch's Addition."