Eugène Boudin was born on the Normandy coast to a seafaring family and it is for his images of sea and shore that he is best known. He became interested in art at the age of twelve when he left work as a cabin boy and began a job in a local stationary shop. The shopkeeper gave him his introduction to painting and Boudin remained there until he was eighteen, when he opened his own art framing shop to cater to artists working in the area, including the painters Troyon, Isabey, Couture, and Millet. Soon, however, he gave up the shop in order to dedicate himself completely to painting. In 1851 he received a small pension from the municipality of Le Havre that allowed him to study at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris from 1851-1853.
Although this time of study was important for his technique and for the broadening of his education, it was in Normandy painting along the shore where his genius blossomed. It was there he met Claude Monet in 1858 and became his mentor, encouraging his enthusiasm for plein-air painting. He became so admired by the younger generation of Impressionists that he was invited to show with them in their inaugural exhibition of 1874. He befriended other major artists during this same time, meeting Courbet around 1859 and Jongkind in 1862. Boudin’s first acceptance at the Paris Salon was in 1859, where his pastels were greatly praised by Charles Baudelaire. He exhibited at the Salon every year from 1863 to 1870.
From 1862 Boudin began to spend holidays at Trouville, where the beach life provided many models and where many of his most famous works were executed. Based mostly along the Channel coast throughout the 1860’s, he also traveled extensively in southern France, particularly along the Côte d’Azur, trips which enriched his use of color. Late in his life, he had considerable success at the Salon. In 1889 he received the Gold Medal at the General Exhibition.
Like Corot, who proclaimed him “the Master of the sky”, Boudin was largely self-taught and he followed Corot’s example in his preference for working directly from nature. Throughout his life he remained faithful to plein-air painting, focusing especially on the play of light on water and on atmospheric cloud studies. The majority of his paintings are small landscapes of the harbors and beaches of the coast of northern France, informed by a sharp eye for social detail.