Eugène Boudin was one of the first French landscape painters to paint outdoors. He was marine painter and expert in the rendering of all that goes upon the sea and along its shores. His pastels garnered the splendid eulogy of Baudelaire, and Corot who, gazing at his pictures, said to him, "You are the master of the sky."
Born at Honfleur, Normandy, the son of a pilot, he worked as cabin boy onboard the rickety steamer that sailed between Havre and Honfleur across the estuary of the Seine. But before old age came on him, Boudin's father abandoned seafaring, and his son gave it up too, though he preserved to his last days much of a sailor's character, frankness, accessibility, and open-heartedness.
In 1835, his family moved to Le Havre. He began work the next year as an assistant in a stationery and framing store before opening his own small shop. There he came into contact with artists working in the area and exhibited in his shop the paintings of Constant Troyon and Jean-François Millet, who, along with Jean-Baptiste Isabey and Thomas Couture, whom he met during this time, encouraged young Boudin to follow an artistic career. At the age of 22, he abandoned the world of commerce, started painting full-time, and traveled to Paris the following year and then through Flanders. In 1850, he earned a scholarship that enabled him to move to Paris, although he often returned to paint in Normandy and, from 1855, made regular trips to Brittany.
Dutch 17th century masters profoundly influenced him, and on meeting the Dutch painter Johan Jongkind, who already made his mark in French artistic circles, Boudin was advised by his new friend to paint outdoors (en plein air). He also worked with Troyon and Isabey, and in 1859 met Gustave Courbet, who introduced him to Charles Baudelaire, the first critic to draw Boudin’s talents to public attention when the artist made his debut at the 1859 Paris Salon.
Salon of Paris, France, 1859