A River in Normandy


Richard Parkes Bonington ( British, 1802 - 1828 )

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General Description

Although Richard Parkes Bonington's precocious career was tragically cut short by illness and death at an early age, he is recognized as one of the leading landscape painters of the Romantic movement. Born and trained at first in England, he moved with his family to Paris in 1818 where he became a good friend of Eugène Delacroix and eventually trained under Jean-Antoine Gros. He made extended trips through France, England, and Italy, making sketches of the effects of light and atmosphere on the rivers and landscapes he saw. He first visited Normandy in 1817 and was attracted to its rugged landscape and the traditional images of the region. Bonington’s paintings of coastal France often depict ships at sea or depositing their cargo on shore. His representations of Trouville and other Normandy towns recall the region's origins as a cluster of small fishing villages before becoming a fashionable tourist destination in the mid-19th century.

An initial criticism of Bonington's work was that he paid greater attention to the atmospheric qualities of the scene than to the depiction of figures or human activity. His dedication to nature inspired fellow artists including Delacroix, who noted Bonington's "marvelous understanding of effects, and the facility of his execution . . . the lightness of touch which . . . makes his pictures as it were like diamonds that delight the eye." A River in Normandy's freely brushed surface and naturalistic light are typical of the Bonington plein-air landscape studies that had long-lasting influence in French art.

Adapted from

  • DMA Label copy from The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting along the Normandy Coast, 1850–1874, Dallas Museum of Art, 21 February 2010 – 23 May 2010.

  • Heather MacDonald, DMA Label Copy (1982.103), October 2010.

  • Steven Nash, DMA Acquisition proposal (1982.103), 1982, Collections Records Object File.

Fun Facts

  • Bonington first befriended Eugène Delacroix when the former was a teenager and moved with his family to Paris where his father set up a lace shop. Seven years later, in 1825, the pair traveled and sketched together in London and then shared a studio when they returned to Paris. During their 1825 journey, Delacroix produced a series of lithographs based on ancient coins, one of which is in the DMA Collection. (1953.49)