One of the hidden jewels of Honfleur is its fine arts museum, the Musee Eugene Boudin. Located within walking distance from the popular old harbor through the town's picturesque, winding streets, this small museum presents a significant collection of 19th and 20th century art.
In 1868, the town council of Honfleur voted to create a municipal museum. The driving force behind this idea was artist Louis-Aleandre Dubourg who became the museum's first curator.
Also supporting the idea was Dubourg's friend, another local artist Eugene Boudin. Boudin's art focused on landscapes depicting the dynamic skies and vigorous seas of the area around Honfleur. A believer in plein air painting, Boudin's approach was looser and more colorful than traditional landscapes and is today referred to as Pre-Impressionism.
Indeed, Boudin contributed directly to the development of Impressionism. Boudin was impressed with the caricatures drawn by a young man who lived in nearby Le Havre, Claude Monet. He encouraged Monet to take up landscape painting and the two - - sometimes accompanied by Johan Barthold Jongkind, a Dutch artist who often stayed in Honfleur - - would venture forth on plein air painting expeditions. Monet who would become the leading Impressionist later said: “If I became a painter, it is to Boudin that I owe it.”
Although Boudin was one of the artists who exhibited at the First Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1874, Honfleur remained his base of operations throughout his career. When he died in 1899, he bequeathed a large portion of his work to the municipal museum in Honfleur. (Much of the remainder went to MuMa in Le Havre).
Recognizing the significance of Boudin's contribution both to the museum and to art in general, the name of the municipal museum was changed to Musee Eugne Boudin in 1960.
The museum's collection, however, is not limited to works by Boudin. Rather, its collection of 2,500 paintings, sculpture, drawings and engravings includes works by an array of artists including not only Monet, Dubourg and Jongkind but also artists such as Gustave Courbet, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Felix Vallotton and Raoul Duffy. There are works by Realists, Romantics, Nabis, Fauves and even Cubists. The general criterion is that either the artist or the subject should have a connection to Honfleur.
The museum also has a 1,000-piece collection of furniture, costumes and other items relating to Normandy.
When it first opened, the museum was located in Honfleur's town hall. In 1924, it moved to the fomer chapel of the convent of the Augustines. The growth of the collection led to the construction of an additional building in 1974 and then to a multi-level addition in 1988. As a result, the museum is a harmony of old and new rooms. Some retain the atmosphere of the old convent while others have panoramic windows looking out at the town and the Seine Estuary beyond.
For more information about visiting the Musee Eugene Boudin, see the Honfleur Museums website.
Places to see art - - Honfleur, France - - Musee Eugene Boudin (Eugene Boudin Museum)