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The Cover
August 10, 2005

Boats in Trouville Harbor

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2005;294(6):657. doi:10.1001/jama.294.6.657

Louis-Eugène Boudin (1824-1898) knew every nuance of the Normandy sky as intimately as a child knows the moods of its mother’s face. He had been born in Normandy, in Honfleur, and he had spent his boyhood on his father’s pilot boat navigating the rivers and estuaries of the Bay of the Seine from Cherbourg to Le Havre. Later, as a professional landscape painter, Boudin committed his impressions to canvas. The results are modest little pictures, usually small in size, of the fashionable beach resorts, jetties, and harbors up and down the coast. So similar are the repeated motifs that without seeing several paintings side by side, the casual viewer could be hard pressed to recall distinguishing features. On the other hand, the practiced eye would recognize that each of the paintings is as unique as the moment in which it was realized. Whether the subjects are ships, fishing boats, bathers, washerwomen, beaches, or harbors, each painting takes its identity from the light. In a Boudin painting light is in fact the subject and it is as variable as the Channel winds that whip up the waters and drive along the clouds. Boudin was among the first to paint en plein air, under the skies, in natural as opposed to studio light, and it was he who persuaded a very young Claude Monet to try the same.