Théodore GUDIN

Paris 1802 - Boulogne-sur-Mer 1880


A student of Anne-Louis Girodet and Antoine-Jean Gros at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Théodore Gudin was the most celebrated marine painter of the first half of the 19th century. He began exhibiting at the Salons in 1822, and two years later won a first-class medal. Gudin achieved his first successes as a painter of seascapes and naval subjects, with his painting of The Fire on the Kent receiving huge praise at the Salon of 1827 and earning the artist the Legion of Honour from Charles X. Among his significant commissions was a series of paintings of views of French ports for Versailles, a project first awarded to and begun by Claude-Joseph Vernet, while for Louis Philippe he painted a series of nearly one hundred large paintings depicting victories of the French Navy, also for Versailles; several of these were exhibited at the Paris Salon between 1839 and 1848.

Famous throughout Europe as a marine painter, Gudin was ennobled as a Baron by Louis-Philippe, and in 1844 married the King’s goddaughter Margaret Hay, daughter of General Sir James Hay and granddaughter of the 7th Marquess of Tweedale. Among Gudin’s other patrons were the Duc d’Orléans, Czar Nicholas I and Napoleon III, by whom he was appointed official painter to the expedition to Algiers. Gudin painted views of the Channel coast and the Mediterranean, and also travelled to Italy, Holland, Poland, Russia and Turkey. He continued to exhibit at the Salons until his death, and also produced a number of etchings and lithographs, as well as contributing illustrations for such books as Eugène Sue’s Histoire de la marine française, published in 1835.

Théodore Gudin’s drawings in sepia wash and watercolour were much admired for their atmospheric depictions of stormy seas, placid waters, sunsets and harbour scenes by moonlight, and were avidly acquired by collectors and connoisseurs throughout Europe. Drawings by Gudin are in the collections of the Louvre, the British Museum, the Rijskmuseum in Amsterdam, and elsewhere.