Do make time for the Musée Eugène Boudin if you find yourself, as we recently did, in Honfleur on a rainy winter’s day. Boudin (1824-1898), a native of Normandy, is known for his paintings of the outdoors, and was a great influence on Monet and the Impressionists.
The museum is spacious and the collection not too large; allow one to two hours. The collection includes work by pre-Impressionist and contemporary Norman artists, as well as displays of traditional Norman costumes and artefacts. The heart of the collection is the Boudin paintings.
Woman with a Parasol on the Beach might be my favourite. You see the same lady later in Monet, and in Winslow Homer on the opposite side of the Atlantic. There’s the wonderful contrast between the dark formal dress and the sweep of beach and wind-pushed clouds. Is she talking on her mobile?
Boudin worked a great deal on the Normandy coast, especially at the fashionable resorts of Trouville and Deauville. He painted a number of scenes similar to On the Beach at Trouville between the 1860s and 1890s.
I love the business of this scene outside the Casino de Trouville. Look at the children, and the dogs, and the tipped-over rush chair at the front.
It seems to me that being a C19 pre-impressionist painter was an excellent gig: you got to hang out in the loveliest places like The Beach at Trouville and Deauville. Check out those bathing machines.
Now here is a view that has changed. Le Havre has been extensively re-built and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its post-war architecture. Boats have changed too, although every 5 years or so, an armada of tall ships gathers on the Seine in Normandy. The next gathering is in June 2013.
And here’s a view that hasn’t changed, apart from a few parasols. Life goes on in the same way year after year on the beach: the resort wear, the sailing lessons, the children ducking in and out of the white-capped waves, their screams of delight echoing down the years.