During his third stay in Paris in 1894, Santiago Rusiñol lived on the Île St.‑Louis, behind the Île de la Cité on the Seine, extremely close to where this picture was painted.

It is very possible that this work dates from that time. Although stylistically it could also have been painted in 1890‑1891 during his stay at the Moulin de la Galette, his subjects were then usually limited to scenes of Montmartre, even though he sometimes also painted the Seine. In any event, it is unlikely that this picture was been painted before 1890 or after 1895. It is an excellent work from one of Rusiñol’s most quintessential periods – a clear exponent of his typical grey and restrained Impressionism. “Everything is peace and relaxation in that poetic spot”, said the artist himself, referring to a place next to the one portrayed in the picture. “Surrounded by the Seine, the noise of the great city of Paris can scarcely be heard in the distance. It comes like the breath of an echo, like the fatigue of a people”. In this picture Rusiñol’s paradoxical yearning for calm can be appreciated. This contrasts with the very vital image of Rusiñol as a public figure and even, to a large extent, of the artist as a writer. In works like this, focused on an aspect already painted by French Impressionists such as Guillaumin and Signac (who in his time was considered prosaic and anodyne), Spanish painting would be characterized by a theme that, six years later, would have a more aggressive, fully Impressionistic continuation in the vigorous views of the Seine by Marian Pidelaserra and Pere Ysern Alié.

Rusiñol did not excessively indulge his enjoyment of painting the Seine, although he produced remarkable works based on the river, such as L´Île de St.‑Louis of the former Colección Sala (now in the Museum of Montserrat Monastery). The oil painting under discussion has the same co-ordinates, even though it may not be the same Seine that the artist showed at his one-man exhibition in the Sala Parés in Barcelona in October 1894: “That view of the shadows reflected in the phosphorescent waters of the river”, said art critic Raimon Casellas of the picture, relating it to the ninth Norwegian school, and no doubt referring to Fritz Thaulow and Erik Werenskjold.


  • Title: Boats on the Seine
  • Date Created: 1894
  • Style: Modernism
  • Place Part Of: Spain
  • Physical Dimensions: w540 x h440 mm (Complete)
  • Painter: Santiago Rusiñol
  • Exhibition: Madrid, Spain
  • Credit Line: Signed in the bottom right-hand corner “S. Rusiñol”
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Fundación Banco Santander, www.fundacionbancosantander.com
  • External Link: Fundación Banco Santander
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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