William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
"Each day I go to my studio full of joy; in the evening when obliged to stop
because of darkness I can scarcely wait for the morning to come...My work is not only
a pleasure, it has become a necessity. No matter how many other things I have in my
life, ifI cannot give myself to my dear painting I am miserable." --William
"One has to seek Beauty and Truth, Sir! As I always say to my pupils,
you have to work to the finish. There's only one kind of painting. It is the painting
that presents the eye with perfection, the kind of beautiful and impeccable enamel you
find in Veronese and Titian." --William Bouguereau, 1895
As a young man, Bouguereau put himself through the Ecole des Beaux-Arts by
keeping books for a wine merchant and coloring lithographic labels for a local grocer.
In his spare time, late in the evening, he created drawings from memory. This
diligence and discipline resulted in an extrordinarily productive artistic
life. Bouguereau produced more than seven hundred finished works and achieved a
remarkable level of public acclaim and financial success. He never forgot his
difficult early days, however; working secretly, he assisted young artists who were
struggling as he had to pursue an artistic career in the face of financial difficulties.
Like many painters of the second half of the 19th century, Bouguereau made a careful
study of form and technique and steeped himself in classical sculpture and painting.
True to his serious and industrious nature, he worked deliberately and industriously:
before beginning a painting he would master the history of his subject and complete
The tenderness with which he portrayed children and domestic scenes,
his technical skill and passion for the classics, and his love of rich color are
hallmarks of Bouguereau's exquisite paintings.
Bouguereau is a particular favorite
of mine and is the generates more fan mail for this gallery than any of the other
artists. Despite his artistic genius and wide popularity,very little has been written
about Bouguereau, his paintings, and his methods. I have heard rumors of a few out of
print books (in French and Italian) on Bouguereau but as yet I have been unable to locate
any of them. One source I have heard about (but have not yet seen myself) is a museum
catalog from a Paris/Montreal/Hartford exhibition in 1984 which has long been out of
print (ISBN 2-89192-047-3).There is also supposed to be a nice postcard book of 30
Bouguereau paintings available from the MOMA store (212-879-5500 for $8.95 + 4.50
shipping and handling). Pomegranate
Artbooksalso has recently published a very nice address book and a pocket calendar
with some fine reproductions of Bouguereau's paintings (Box 6099, Rohnert Park,
California 94927). There is a poster available of Temptation available from
the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
over the net.A good book on Bouguereau has finally been published in English (in May
1996) by Fronia E. Wissman simply entitled Bouguereau (ISBN 0-87654-582-7, $30.00
published by Pomegranate Artbooks). It is a must for any serious Bouguereau fan.
There can be little doubt that Bouguereau was one of the most talented painters of his
time, but it is a shame that he has fallen into obscurity with museum curators and those
supposedly sophisticated about art who think that ugliness and lack of content imply
depth and talent.
William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
|Seated Nude (1884) (80K) Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown Massachusetts|
Sketches and Photographs
I am looking for sources of color images of a number of Bouguereau and other paintings, click here to see them.
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