The port of Le Havre

The port of Le Havre

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Title: The Port of Le Havre, Bassin de la Barre.

Author : BOUDIN Eugène-Louis (1824 - 1898)

Creation date : 1888

Date shown: 1888

Dimensions: Height 32 - Width 41

Technique and other indications: Oil on parqueted wood.

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzisite web

Picture reference: 97-010310 / RF1978-19

The Port of Le Havre, Bassin de la Barre.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: September 2008

Historical context

The first globalization

The spread of the British industrial model to North-West Europe and the United States on the one hand, the exploitation of colonial empires on the other, concurred in the second half of the 19th century.e century to an explosion of trade often described as “the first globalization”. Under the Empire then the IIIe Republic, Le Havre, in particular, then experienced a real golden age linked to general world growth. A native of Honfleur, a specialist with Jongkind in seascapes and inspirer of the Impressionists, he painted in Le Havre more or less continuously from 1885 to 1889.

Image Analysis

A testament to the "spirit of sketch"

In 1888, Eugène Boudin undertook, no doubt under the influence that the Impressionists had on him in return, to "rejuvenate his painting". The light in particular is more abundant. He tries, he then says, not to "polish" any more, and adds "I do my best to keep my painting as sketchy." A bright atmosphere reigns over the Barre basin (opened in 1820), located not far from the city center. Boudin grasps it in its length, seen from the south quay. On the right appear the docks of the Lamande quay, with tall vertical structures characteristic of constructions carried out in the 19th century.e century in the big ports like Marseilles or Hamburg. Isolated at the back stands that of the Rotterdam quay, while further on you can guess the rigging of the buildings wet in the Vauban basin. On either side are moored sloops, deep-sea fishing sailboats, with white rails. The metal "V" frame of a crane on the left and the three boats navigating in the center stand out in dark against the bright elements.


1852-1914, the largest city in Normandy, the second port in France

Le Havre is one of those ports that have benefited from the shift in trade from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. While it retains a fishing activity, as Eugène Boudin shows, this open sea port, privileged in this respect compared to Rouen, becomes a starting point and arrival point for many commodities. Emigrants to America gain days at sea in Genoa or Hamburg. The flow of expensive but light products feeds a large international market specializing in tropical foods. The traders bring them from all over the world to redistribute them, by cabotage and soon by rail, throughout France and Europe. The need to store and preserve this pile of goods justifies the creation of specific buildings, the docks. Concomitantly and customarily for the industrial age, the city grew in area and population (20,000 Le Havre in 1800, 120,000 in 1890) then acquired industrial facilities linked to the port such as shipyards.

  • impressionism
  • Harbor
  • industrial Revolution
  • cranes


Alain BELTRAN and Pascal GRISET, The Economic Growth of France, 1815-1914, Paris, Armand Colin, 1994. André CORVISIER (dir.), History of Havre and the Seine estuary, Toulouse, Privat, 1987. Marie -Françoise COUVEHNES, Les Messageries maritimes, the rise of a large French shipping company, 1851-1894, Paris, PUPS, 2007.Georges DUBY (dir.), Histoire de la France urbaine, volume IV, “The city of the industrial age ”, by Maurice AGULHON, Françoise CHOAY, Maurice CRUBELLIER, Yves LEQUIN and Marcel RONCAYOLO, Paris, Le Seuil, 1983, re-edition“ Points Histoire ”, 1998.

To cite this article

Bernard COLOMB, "The port of Le Havre"

Video: Le Havre, France