In the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg art gallery a painting by the very famous Claude Monet is surrounded by three works by Eugene Boudin, an artist whose name isn’t as recognizable as Monet’s. I think I know why Monet’s masterpiece is bookended by Boudin’s paintings.
Eugene Boudin loved the ocean. His Dad was a ferry-boat operator who took Eugene out to sea as a young boy to teach him the ferry trade. One day however Eugene fell into the ocean and nearly drowned. His mother put her foot down. Eugene wasn’t going back out to sea. He was going to school. There a teacher noticed his artistic talent and the rest is history.
Eugene never lost his love of the sea however. It is the subject of many of his paintings and on the backs of each one he always wrote the weather conditions and the wind speed and direction on the day he painted. it.
Boudin was sixteen years older than Claude Monet. The two grew up in Normandy towns just twelve kilometers apart from each other – Boudin in Honfleur and Monet in La Rave but they got to know each other in Paris.
At about the same time as Eugene had his first painting accepted into the prestigious Paris Salon he met Claude Monet.
The young Claude was making a living creating caricatures in charcoal and selling them to people on the streets of Paris. Boudin thought Claude was talented and encouraged him to spend a summer with him in the Normandy area painting seascapes. Eugene did not have an easy time convincing the young Monet but finally Claude reluctantly agreed. Monet would say later that summer of painting with Boudin changed his life, it was as “if a curtain had opened up before his eyes and he saw for the first time what painting was all about.” He became a landscape painter. Monet and Boudin remained life long friends.
There are three landscapes by Eugene Boudin in the current French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Although they can certainly be appreciated for their own beauty, the experience of viewing them is enriched when you know that if it wasn’t for Boudin there might not have been a landscape by Monet to also include in the exhibit.