To 30 September 2018
The monographic exhibition «Monet / Boudin» presented by the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza offers visitors the first opportunity to discover the relationship between the great Impressionist painter Claude Monet (Paris, 1840 – Giverny, 1926) and his master Eugène Boudin (Honfleur, 1824 – Deauville, 1898), the most important representative of mid-19th-century French plein air painting.
This joint presentation of their work not only aims to cast light on Monet’s formative years, in which Boudin played an important role, but also to offer a vision of their entire careers and the origins of the Impressionist movement.
This exhibition is benefitting from the sponsorship of Japan Tobacco International (JTI), a company recognised as one of the leading art sponsors in Europe, which has been increasing its support for the dissemination of art in Spain through its collaboration with the museum initiated some years ago.
The exhibition is structured chronologically and thematically and is divided into eight sections. «Monet / Boudin» emphasises the two painters’ shared artistic concerns such as their interest in the iconography of modern life as reflected in scenes of summer holiday visitors on the beach at Trouville; changing effects of light, to be seen in most of their oils and pastels; and the largely untamed nature of the Brittany and Normandy coastlines.
- Picturesque landscape
The two artists met for the first time in the spring of 1856 when they coincided in the Gravier stationery shop in Le Havre. Boudin, who was the older by 16 years, congratulated Monet on his work as a caricaturist, a field in which he was beginning to gain recognition, and encouraged him to continue studying and painting, inviting him to join him in this activity. At this date Boudin was embarking on his early mature work following a self-taught learning period based on copying the 17th-century Dutch masters. During this period he was producing plein air studies in the tradition of the Barbizon School landscape painting.
- Marine views
Previously considered a minor genre, from the second quarter of the 19th-century marine views became increasingly important and more sought-after by collectors. Boudin’s father was a harbour pilot and his childhood had close connections to the sea. His earliest drawings of boats date from the 1840s but it was from 1854 onwards that he depicted scenes of fishermen with particular frequency.
In addition to following Jongkind’s example Monet also looked at Courbet and Manet’s marine views and began to produce large-scale compositions painted outdoors. One example is The Beach at Sainte-Adresse (1867), one of the most important works from his early phase. In this canvas Monet employed cool, glittering tones which anticipate Impressionism and distance him from the grey tonalities of Boudin’s works.
- Beach scenes
Formerly a small fishing village with a long beach, Trouville rapidly became a tourist destination for the middle classes and the aristocracy. Boudin discovered it in the early 1860s and returned every summer to paint the port, quaysides, the River Touques and beach scenes. With the latter he aimed to appeal to a wider clientele, including the summer visitors to the town.Monet and his family also moved to Trouville for the summer of 1870 where he tried out various beach scenes based on those of his master.
- Pastels: sky studies
Around the late 1850s Boudin started to produce pastel sky studies in which he made use of the material’s flexibility to rapidly capture the appearance of the sky at different times of the day and in different seasons and weather conditions. Among the new generation of artists it was Monet who derived the most direct lesson from these studies, producing more than 100 pastels during his career.
In the 1890s Monet’s work underwent a fundamental shift when he started to produce series on a single motif, using a similar viewpoint but painted in different weather conditions and under different types of light.
For his part Boudin executed around 200 variations on the quaysides at Trouville, capturing small differences in the atmospheric conditions.
- Wild coastline
In the late 1870s Monet and Boudin’s friendship started to cool. This may have been due to Monet’s relationship with Alice Hoschedé before the death of his wife Camille, whom Boudin greatly appreciated, or to the economic crisis of 1875 which seriously affected the art market. Boudin nonetheless maintained his admiration for his former pupil and numerous works from the 1880s and 1890s reveal their shared interests, for example their views of the Normandy cliffs and the Brittany coastline.
- Light, reflections and atmospheric effects
Dating from these years are Boudin’s marine views in which evening light is the principal element, such as Low Tide (1884).
While in the 1880s Monet focused on both the power of the sea and on the study of light and atmospheric effects, in the following decade it was the latter that most attracted his attention together with an exploration of serial painting.
- Travels to the South
For two painters such as Monet and Boudin, who grew up and became painters under the grey and changing skies of Normandy, their encounter with the light of the Mediterranean must have been a revelation. This was certainly true for Monet: following a short trip to the Côte d’Azur and the Italian Riviera in the company of Renoir, in 1884 he lived in Bordighera for several months in order to paint. In 1888 he returned to Antibes where he once again painted the pink light of the Mediterranean.
For health reasons Boudin made his first trip to the Midi in 1885, which may have influenced the more colourful palette which he employed from that date onwards. It was above all during his visit to Beaulieu in 1892 that he fully grasped Mediterranean light while completing his canvases outdoors thanks to the fine weather. Like Monet, in 1893 Boudin went to Antibes and in 1895 he painted more than 70 canvases in Venice, works that he himself considered his «swansong».For health reasons Boudin made his first trip to the Midi in 1885, which may have influenced the more colourful palette which he employed from that date onwards. It was above all during his visit to Beaulieu in 1892 that he fully grasped Mediterranean light while completing his canvases outdoors thanks to the fine weather. Like Monet, in 1893 Boudin went to Antibes and in 1895 he painted more than 70 canvases in Venice, works that he himself considered his «swansong».