About The Artwork
Although not a household name among American audiences, the painter and draftsman Eugène Boudin nonetheless played a seminal role in the origin and development of Impressionism. Born in Honfleur, a picturesque coastal city in Normandy, Boudin studied and worked in Paris but returned repeatedly to northern France throughout his life. His subject matter — fashionable vacationers along the coast, Breton peasants, still lifes — placed him firmly within the sphere inhabited by the Barbizon painters and later, the Impressionists. Such scenes also proved to be popular among collectors, critics, and curators. Boudin established his artistic reputation in various venues: the annual Salon exhibition, showing there regularly from 1859 to 1897; at regular shows with his art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel; and perhaps most importantly for the history of art, participating in the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874. He received a gold medal at the 1889 Exposition Universelle and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1892.
Boudin’s scenes of stylish beach-goers illustrated the kind of attention to modern life extolled by poet Charles Baudelaire. But the artist’s concentration on the common, everyday activities of farmers, fishermen, and laundresses reveals much about traditional ways of life for working-class people in rural northern France. Interieure d’une Ferme opens a window into a humble workspace occupied by two figures. Framed by the doorway, a young girl turns her head to gaze at the landscape. Her clothing mirrors that of the Breton woman standing to the right of the door, who is surrounded by the accoutrements of her everyday work. Both figures wear a coif, the distinctive hat made from soft cloth or lace worn by women and girls in Brittany, and both don simple black dresses. Over her dress the older woman wears a bright white apron, which stands out against the shadows. Wooden clogs, worn by both men and women, complete her outfit. The artist animates the entire scene through sketchy, loose lines, irregular patches of watercolor, and a dynamic jumble of bowls, barrels, and benches. He provides a solid sense of structure, however, through strong verticals, evidenced particularly well in the doorframe, the upright posture of the woman, and the patch of ochre paint along the right side of the study.
Assistant Professor, Frederik Meijer Honors College, Grand Valley State University