The Touques River winds through Normandy's Calvados region before emptying into the English Channel between the seaside resort towns of Deauville and Trouville sur Mer. This meeting of river and sea endlessly inspired French Impressionist master Eugene Boudin to create scenes of life along the river, whether it was tourists on the nearby beach or locals in the busy port and fishing village which made the area famous long before it was a resort.
The full moon breaks through the clouds to bathe the entire scene in a dramatic contrast of light and shadow. In the foreground, twelve figures are hard at work with the evening's catch. On the right, a group of men on the dock overlook two others on a boat just come in from the sea. On the left, two men stand in conversation next to a group of nine dories tied at the shore. In one of the dories, two others prepare to disembark, a brilliant spot of Boudin's trademark red highlighting a sack slung over the shoulder. Nearby, another man leans on a rail watching two more sail by on a small fishing smack passing in front of the Caserne des Douanes or Customs Barracks building which lies at the northeastern end of the Tocques peninsula.
Normandy's famed grey skies are shot through with warm and cool greys, blues and charcoal tones, all rendered in layers of active brushwork, lending great depth throughout the sky. The tones are deftly mirrored in the glassy surface of the water, the artist's brush working in smooth blended color to show calm. Touches of white and Boudin red show brilliant reflections of the moon's light across the water, while warmer tones reflect fire or gaslights upon the shore. In the distance, full rigged ships sit at anchor with many other boats large and small, while Trouville's main landing and buildings run along the river's right bank.
Given the angle it's likely Boudin painted this on site, en plein air, on the banks of the Tocques near or even on the bridge which links the two cities, today called the Pont des Belges. Trouville has attracted writers and artists since the early 19th century. Along with Boudin, Claude Monet, Claude Pissarro, Édouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, and Gustave Caillebotte all painted throughout the area.
Boudin's views of this area are desirable and several of his paintings of the River Touques, Deauville and Trouville are in the permanent collections of major museums around the world. This is one of the finest of Boudin's rarer night scenes we have come across, with a unique brightness and quality of illumination in the work, recalling chiaroscuro shading techniques of earlier masters. It is a great work of classic French Impressionism.
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