Pentimenti, the visible trace of earlier painting, appears among the diagonal rigging of the small ship at the left, indicating that the artist did not thoroughly work out his composition before beginning his picture and slightly changed the position of these lines while painting.
In 1873, Boudin made his first visit to the important port city of Bordeaux as a guest of the resident art collector Arthur Bourges. Between 1874 and 1876, Boudin made paintings of the city's harbor and docks. This was an especially stimulating time in Boudin's career, as he was invited to exhibit in 1874 with the newly-founded Société anonyme des artistes, soon to be known as the Impressionists. As in many of his views, Boudin concentrated here on the quais or working docks where goods were loaded and unloaded and sailors left in small dinghies for the larger vessels on which they worked. The low horizon line relegates much of the canvas to pure sky, but the soaring vertical and diagonal forms of the masts complement this horizontal thrust and open space. Many contemporaries greatly admired Boudin's ability to paint skies. Here, one can see the way in which he brushed on a tan color, then went over it, probably while it was still wet, with a thin but opaque application of white, to create a fresh, airy quality. For the darker areas representing water, Boudin laid in an olive-green tone.
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