Monet and Boudin: disciple and teacher meet at Thyssen

Claude Monet. Brazo del Sena cerca de Vétheuil, 1878

Claude Monet. Arm of the Seine near Vétheuil, 1878 (Arm of the Seine near Vétheuil). Oil on canvas. 60×80 cm Pérez Simón Collection, Mexico. Photograph by Arturo Piera. CLAUDE MONET

It was the year 1920 when Claude Monet (Paris, 1840 – Giverny, 1926) recognized his biographer Gustave Geffroy: “I have said it and I repeat it: I owe everything to Boudin” . The relationship between both artists had arisen fortuitously in 1856 in the Gravier stationery in Le Havre. Monet was barely 16 years old but Boudin appreciated his incipient talent as a cartoonist and encouraged him to broaden his scope by studying and painting at his side.

Eugène Boudin (Honfleur, 1824 – Deauville, 1898) was, on the other hand, one of the most outstanding representatives of the French open-air painting of the mid-nineteenth century and a self-taught artist who had learned by copying the Dutch masters 17th century.

Although Monet’s family did not approve of this relationship (because Boudin came from a low social class), finally student and teacher met, initiating a relationship that would last for life (albeit with some ups and downs) and giving the opportunity to Monet to start painting landscapes in plein air and capture in a unique way the brightness of the day. It could be said that, in a certain way, Boudin is a precursor of impressionism , since he would be able to inculcate to his disciple many of the secrets that would lay the foundations and take this movement to the highest levels.


To better understand this relationship, the Thyssen Museum has just opened Monet / Boudin , a monographic exhibition that offers, for the first time, the opportunity to discover not only the great influence that Boudin played in learning Monet but also reviews their respective careers and the origins of impressionism.

The exhibition, which can be visited until September 30, brings together a hundred works by both authors, of which “between 75 and 80 percent had never been seen in Spain,” says the curator of the same Juan Ángel López-Manzanares, since “Boudin is very little known in Spain”.

A juicy and valuable selection, since Monet “is one of the most desired figures by all the museums in the world,” says the artistic director of the museum Guillermo Solana, with loans from well-known art galleries such as the Musée d’Orsay de Paris, the National Gallery of London, the Metropolitan of New York or the National Museum of Belas Artes of Rio de Janeiro.

Throughout a chronological and thematic tour divided into eight chapters , the exhibition delves into those common points and artistic interests that kept them together for decades: the seascapes (Boudin was, in fact, the son of a sailor), the beach scenes in Trouville with its harbor and the docks, the views of the cliffs of Normandy and the Brittany coasts, the influence of luminosity of the Mediterranean, the studies of the sky in pastel (Monet came to perform more than a hundred throughout his career that helped him to rehearse the variations of light and color) or the variations (also called series) on a single motif in different environmental and lighting conditions.

In gratitude to everything learned at his side, Monet would invite his teacher in 1874 to participate in the first impressionist exhibition . The relationship would cool down by the end of that decade but both would always retain mutual admiration. After the death of Boudin in 1898, Monet would be part of the committee that organized his great posthumous exhibition. I would always appreciate being the first to recognize his talent.

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