Aspiring French artists often studied at École des Beaux-Arts (founded in 1648) and the Académie Julian (established in 1868). For those whom such prestigious Parisian schools were financially out of reach, many copied paintings at the Louvre; the venerable institution allows the practice to this day, and even has its own school. Apprenticeships in established artists’ studios was not uncommon, either.
The French Impressionists—Claude Monet, Eugène Boudin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among others—redefined the art world with their first exhibition, in 1874. While initially dismissed by critics, the Impressionists and their movement strongly influenced the progression of art in both their home country and the wider art world. The artists that came after them, from neoimpressionist painter Paul Cézanne to Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, owe a debt of gratitude to the Impressionists, for the convention-breaking path they forged.
Today, French artists of all time periods continue to do well at auction. Works by French artists of French locales attract buyers on both sides of the Atlantic, drawn to the luminous, storied artistic history of the Gallic nation. The connection between the two countries has existed for centuries, and not just for the many American artists who lived and studied there. Several prominent American statesmen traveled to France, bringing back with them guidance on everything from city planning (Philadelphia’s own Benjamin Franklin Parkway, named after the Founding Father and first Ambassador to France, was designed after Paris’ famed Champs-Élysées), cultural touchstones, and even governmental support in the fledgling United States’ bid for independence. France, more so than almost any other country, holds a place in the American ideal as the standard bearer for arts and culture, so it is no surprise that artworks by French artists find success at auction.
Born in Honfleur, the Normandy port town two hours northwest of Paris, Eugène Boudin is one of the most acclaimed marine and landscape painters. In 1850, Boudin was given a three year scholarship from the town of Le Havre, that allowed him to move to Paris to study and copy paintings at the Louvre.
Boudin began to work outdoors, en plein air, a direct departure from the conventional, studio-based mode of the time, and a move that would foreshadow the Impressionist movement. The open and luminous quality of Boudin’s works was a particular influence for the young Claude Monet, who met Boudin at age 17 and worked alongside him, learning to appreciate and capture the distinct effects of light that would later define his style and vault him to prominence.
Blanche Hoschedé-Monet became part of an important family at the core of the French Impressionist movement when her mother, Alice Hoschedé, became Claude Monet’s second wife. She subsequently married Monet's eldest son, Jean, making her not only Monet's step daughter, but also his daughter-in-law. Blanche discovered painting at the age of eleven. Motivated and encouraged by her stepfather, she would paint en plein air next to him, and soon became his assistant and pupil. Blanche's style is directly inspired by Claude Monet, and it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between their respective work. Her subjects often revolve around Monet's house in Giverny, where she lived as a child until 1897 and where she returned to live after her husband’s death in 1914.
The open and luminous quality of Boudin’s works was a particular influence for the young Claude Monet.
Jean Dufy was born in the port town of Le Havre in 1888 and moved to Paris in 1912. The younger brother of Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), who became his mentor throughout his artistic career, he is best known for his depictions of the sprawling new architectural landscape of the French capital, along with society life, orchestras, and horse racing. Though stylistically different, the two brothers both inherently understood Parisian life at the time. Jean Dufy's quick, strong brushstrokes and confident use of color are a hallmark of his modernist style.