Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883), Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1868
oil on canvas,
59.5 cm x 73.3 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (purchased with support from the BankGiro Loterij, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Mondriaan Fund, the Rabobank, the Rembrandt Association, with the additional support from the Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds, the VSB Foundation and the Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
This harbour scene shows a view of the northern French resort of Boulogne-sur-Mer, where Edouard Manet sketched the jetties and the holidaymakers in the summer of 1868. He took the sketches back to his Paris studio, where he used them to compose this painting. What seems at first sight like a spontaneous snapshot has, therefore, been painstakingly constructed.
The azure water and strolling figures create a vivid impression of a summer's day at the seaside. The painting’s greatest appeal, however, lies in the way the jetties are depicted: they bisect the picture plane horizontally, while the mast of the sailing boat moored between them does the same vertically. The taut lines and abrupt cropping create a bold composition, for which Manet might have drawn inspiration from Japanese prints.
Manet was viewed in Vincent van Gogh’s time as one of the most important contemporary artists. Although Van Gogh considered his work ‘very original’, he did not count Manet ‘among the very best of this century’, he wrote in February 1884.