Captivated by the rocky beach neighbored by the harbor on one side and the rocky outcropping on the other, Boudin renders the scene with quick, Impressionistic brushstrokes. The figures inhabit the middle distance of the canvas, their forms minute in comparison to the expanse of the sky. In Le Rivage de Villerville, Boudin also exhibits his exceptional qualities as an observer of both society and nature. Vivien Hamilton writes: “The artistic challenge presented by the subject was not only the representation of movement, color, and light but also the successful incorporation of the human figure into the landscape. At their best, the beach scenes vibrate with subtle nuances of light, color, shade and movement, tiny and hasty specks of pure color simultaneously dramatizing the surface and bringing the whole into harmony” (Vivien Hamilton, Boudin at Trouville, London, 1992, p. 63).
Boudin’s interest in capturing the fleeting effects of sunlight on a given moment, so masterfully explored in the present painting, had a profound influence on Impressionist artists. Indeed, decades earlier, in 1857-58, Boudin befriended the young Claude Monet, then only 18 years old. He persuaded him to give up his teenage caricature drawings and to instead adopt landscape painting. Boudin was responsible for instilling in Monet a fascination with the play of light on water evident in the latter’s Impressionist paintings, including those of the Normandy coast (see fig. 1). The two would remain lifelong friends. Following Monet’s acclaim later in his career, he cited Boudin’s lasting influence.
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