Sunset on the Normandy Coast
The Artist (until d. 1886; his estate sale, Georges Petit, Paris, March 30–31, 1887, no. 82;
[Foinard, Paris, 1887–apparently before his d. 1918];
Private Collection, England
Pierre Miquel. Eugène Isabey, 1803–1886: La Marine au XIXe siècle. Vol. 2, Maurs-la-Jolie, 1980, pp. 72, 94, no. 145, ill., calls it "Coucher de la soleil sur la baie" and identifies it as no. 82 in the artist's estate sale, where it was bought by Foinard.
R[ichard]. S[hone]. "Supplement: Acquisitions (2000–10) of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York."Burlington Magazine 152 (December 2010), p. 839, fig. II (color).
John House. "Impressionism and the Open-Air Oil Sketch." Studying Nature: Oil Sketches from the Thaw Collection. Ed. Jennifer Tonkovich. New York, 2011, p. 94, fig. 79 (color), contrasting it to 2007.164.5, states that it "seems very likely to have been an open-air étude".
Esther Bell. "Catalogue Raisonné of the Thaw Collection." Studying Nature: Oil Sketches from the Thaw Collection. Ed. Jennifer Tonkovich. New York, 2011, p. 131, no. 88, ill. (color), calls it "Sunset on the Normandy Coast".
Isabey’s work, particularly in oil-sketches such as this and in watercolour, shows the profound influence of British Romantic landscape painters – particularly that of Bonington and Constable – on a number of French artists of the period, including Delacroix. Here, the rich colour also recalls the intense chromatic effects in John Martin’s paintings, as well as in Turner’s. Eugene Isabey was the son of a distinguished artist, Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855), one of the finest portrait miniaturists of the period, but from the outset of his career Eugene chose to be a landscapist. He undoubtedly learned the basic techniques of painting in oil and watercolour from his father, as well as of lithography (Jean-Baptiste was an early promoter of the medium), and both were to contribute lithographs to Baron Taylor’s monumental series 'Voyages pittoresques et romantiques dans l’ancienne France', which began publication in 1820. In 1821 he made his first visit to Britain and discovered British painting; among his earliest surviving watercolours, a number of marine subjects already show an indebtedness to the English style.
Jean-Baptiste was a friend of Bonington, who may well have been instrumental in urging Eugene to become a professional artist, despite his father’s misgivings, and whose influence is apparent from this time; he and Eugene may have travelled together on sketching tours of the Normandy coast. Isabey’s reputation was established by his exhibits of marines and landscapes at the Salon of 1824 (at which both Bonington and Constable were awarded gold medals). He made a second visit to England in 1825, when he met Delacroix, another significant influence on him. By the end of the decade, Eugene Isabey, together with his friends Paul Huet and Theodore Gudin, had firmly established the genre of Romantic seascape, inspired by their regular visits to Normandy. His reputation in this genre was underlined when the state purchased his Porte a maree basse (Musee du Louvre, Paris) at the Salon of 1833, although his exhibits for that year were censured by the critic Gustave Planche for being too dependent on English style.
Although Isabey continued to paint such subjects until the end of his life – and was to be the master both of Eugene-Louis Boudin and Johann Barthold Jongkind – he began to work in a completely different genre, that of historical subjects, including elaborate recreations of 16th and 17th century court life. These in turn led to commissions from Louis-Philippe, who appointed him as one of his court painters, and for whom he painted vast canvases recording important episodes in the life of the July monarchy.
This powerful oil-sketch can be dated to circa 1830.