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Charles-Francois Daubigny : “Boats on the Seacoast at Etaples” (1871)

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Charles-François Daubigny was an important forerunner and midwife to the Impressionist movement, his career reflecting the tension between his academic training and revolutionary insights gained by direct contact with nature. As a young artist he first trained under the academic painter Pierre-Asthasie-Théodore Sentiès, desperately seeking the acceptance of the Salon, yet he rebelled against the traditional formulas of landscape painting by working outdoors, in attendance to the fleeting properties of natural light. During his lifetime he would collaborate with the likes of Gustave Courbet, Paul Cézanne, Camille Corot, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, leveraging his growing influence to advance their cause. In 1865, and again in 1870, he would resign from Salon juries to protest the rejection of works by the Impressionists, remarking that he “preferred paintings full of daring to the nonentities welcomed into each Salon.”

By the 1870s, when the present work was completed, his own style was becoming recognizably impressionistic; his brushstrokes looser, his palette higher-keyed. Having won his artistic freedom, he was openly experimenting with new techniques, and thereby lending his endorsement to a young avant-garde still struggling against orthodoxy. Though he would not live to see the future of the movement that he did so much to shape, and which did so much to shape him, his ardent support would clear a path for a new generation to spearhead the development of modern art.

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