50. Théodore Gudin

Paris 1802 – 1880 Boulogne-sur-Seine

Seascape during a Storm Seen from the Ship “Le Véloce”, 1839

“To paint the sea, one must have sailed.”1 Théodore Gudin, the first peintre de la Marine appointed by King Louis Philippe, suited his actions to his words. After briefly attending the French Naval Academy, he abandoned his studies and sailed in the United States Navy for three years. He became a painter after his return to Paris in 1822, training in the studio of Girodet, and specialized in the depiction of naval battles and shipwreck scenes. These two studies (cat. 49 and 50) were painted aboard the steamer Le Véloce in 1839, while Gudin was working on a royal commission of 135 paintings commemorating episodes of French naval history for the museum of Versailles. In thick, oily paint, he quickly recorded the bruised clouds above the coastline of Corsica (cat. 49), a tiny black ship just visible in the distance. The unusual vantage point of his view of the ship itself, painted from a precarious perch along the main mast, has an immediacy which brings to mind later developments in snapshot photography. In 1846, Alexandre Dumas would be aboard the same vessel during his travels through North Africa which resulted in the publication Le Véloce ou Tanger, Alger et Tunis.

1“Pour peindre la mer, il faut avoir navigué.”, Théodore Gudin, Souvenirs du baron Gudin, peintre de la Marine (1820-1870) publiés par Edmond Béraud, 3r ed., Paris, 1921, p. 34.