The Quay at Antwerp


Eugène–Louis Boudin ( French, 1824 - 1898 )

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General Description

Billowing white clouds and the steeples and smokestacks of the bustling Belgian city of Antwerp are reflected in the shimmering waters of the harbor. Recognized as a forerunner of the impressionists, Eugène Boudin painted en plein air, or outdoors, on small canvases with great sensitivity to light and climate conditions. The Quay at Antwerp illustrates his use of loose brushwork to represent the water's movement and atmospheric effects. His sketches and finished landscapes prompted the 19th–century art critic Charles Baudelaire to comment that "one can guess the season, the hour and the wind from Boudin's studies."

Boudin, the son of a mariner, was born in 1824 in Honfleur, France. While operating a small stationery shop in Le Havre, he met Eugène Isabey, Thomas Couture, and Jean-François Millet, and agreed to display their works in his shop window. Millet encouraged Boudin to devote himself to painting and leave his retail business behind. In 1851 the Society of Art Friends of Le Havre granted Boudin a scholarship to study in Paris for three years. Unimpressed by his contact with the schools in Paris and unaffected by the prevailing art standards, Boudin returned to Le Havre, intent on painting out-of-doors directly from nature (plein air). During this period he became acquainted with Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Charles Baudelaire, Charles François Daubigny, Johan Barthold Jongkind, and Claude Monet. He influenced the development of French Impressionism and exhibited in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. He made his reputation painting scenes of vacationers along the beaches of Normandy, particularly in Deauville and Trouville. Boudin's paintings consisted mainly of beach scenes and seascapes from the coast of northern France and were distinguished by his attention to the irridescent quality of both water and vast skies.

Adapted from

  • Gail Davitt, DMA biographical research, 1986-1987, Education files.

  • DMA Label copy (1981.102) from The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting along the Normandy Coast, 1850–1874, February 2010.

  • Heather MacDonald, DMA label copy (1981.102), October 2010.

Fun Facts

  • "Everything that is painted on the spot has strength, a power, a vividness of touch that one does not find again in the studio." (Eugène Boudin, 1869)

  • Boudin is probably best known as the artist credited by Claude Monet for introducing the famed Impressionist to the methods and benefits of plein air painting. The pair first met in 1858 in Le Havre.