Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WILLIAM BOUGUEREAU








Portrait_de_lartiste (Self-portrait)



Art Renewal Center is the largest on-line Museum on the Internet. A work in progress, steadily expanding with thousands of high quality images of the greatest paintings and sculpture in history, the Art Renewal Center is building an encyclopedic collection of essays, biographies and articles by top scholars in the field.
225 out of over 5,000 of the top names in all of art history, ARC has tracked who people like and visit the most. The results are sure to shock you and to shake up the art world and all of the preconceived notions that the Modernist propaganda machine has tried so hard to establish for decades.
THE ART RENEWAL CENTER is proud to share with its public, for the first time, a list of the 225 most popular artists in the ARC Museum. The complete list or figures were compiled over 6 months, and represent the total number of times any page in an artist's gallery was viewed over this period.
Visitors have overwhelmingly voted in favour of William Bouguereau as the most popular artist in the ARC Museum, followed by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Jean-Léon Gérôme, also Academic masters. Bouguereau received more than three times the hits (or pages viewed) of the highest ranking Old Master, Raphael; more even than Leonardo da Vinci, in a year when there has been a resurgence of popular interest in his life and work. The top three ranking artists are not Impressionists like Monet, Renoir, or Degas but three of the greatest Academic painters of the 19th century. Conventional wisdom has it that the Impressionists are the most well-known and loved artists of the 19th century. These results suggest that preferences are changing. Source: artrenewal.org)
For a period extending roughly from the beginning of the First World War to the 1980s, the number of people in American and Europe - especially in France - who were ever exposed to the name of William Bouguereau, were rare indeed. Fewer still were those who, driven by curiosity, had the opportunity of seeing a single photograph of his painting, let alone the real thing. Only tiny black-and-white images offered in old dictionaries or art reference books could be found. And for the scarce paintings in French public collections, not one was exhibited. Rather, they were rolled up or stored without care or maintenance; tossed aside, pell-mell, with other equally despised academic paintings. They moldered eventually in the purgatory of provincial museums where only the “authorized” could view them, while uncooperative “officials” would not permit any careful examination.It is sad to note what little effort has heretofore been made to shed more light on the life and work of Bouguereau. Only the admirable catalogue of the 1984/85 Bouguereau exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, permits a serious approach to the subject, and we owe a debt of gratitude for this to Louise d’Argencourt and the late Mark Steven Walker, and the three Museums involved who made it possible.
And yet, Bouguereau was one of the most admired, listened-to, and envied artists at the end of the nineteenth century; as much by his peers as by the public who flocked each year to the Salon to admire the pictures that somehow “made” the event and which were often reproduced on the front page of magazines. Millions of his reproductions were avidly purchased for the homes of those who couldn’t afford paintings. On the whole, his were the most expensive paintings and his clients were society’s wealthiest - Americans for the most part - who had to wait many months, even years, before they could finally get their hands on a single painting from the Master. And that, in spite of his prolific output of more than 800 works. (Source: William Bouguereau Biography (1825-1905) - by Damien Bartoli, Translated by Kingsley Owen & Juan C. Martinez Edited by Fred Ross)
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 numerous sketches.
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. (Source: WebMuseum, Paris)

Translated title: Young Gypsies 1879
Oil on canvas 5 1/4 x 38 7/8 inches (166 x 99 cm).
Colllection of Fred and Sherry Ross, USA.
Signed and dated lower left.

"Bouguereau loved to exalt the poor. A gypsy mother, holding her young child in her arms, stands on an elevated plane with a backdrop of nearly only sky. They stand so high in fact, that in the distance the ocean can be seen all the way to the horizon, symbolizing that even though the gypsies’ social status is low, they have just as much right to stand as tall and as proud. The figures both look down on the viewer, further emphasizing their elevated state. The dignity of the lower classes was a favorite theme of Bouguereau's that he depicted in many of his works. The mother and child are both beautiful showing that their modest clothing has no impact on their beauty."-- by Kara Ross"Modernist ideologues love to say that Bouguereau was irrelevant to his times because he wasn’t one of the impressionists who were carving out the path to abstract expressionism. Nothing could be further from the truth. A child of the recent French and American Revolution, Bouguereau along with many artists and writers of the day, believed in the breakthroughs of Enlightenment thought: Democracy, the Rights of men, “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”. Not only wasn’t it true that he was irrelevant, but nothing could have been more relevant, than works like this that ennobled and elevated ordinary people and peasants. And what better way then to take the lowest of the low in society, the Gypsies, and to raise them to the heavens? They are both beautiful without being overly pretty; 'real' and 'ideal' at the same time."-- by Fred Ross.

Translated title: Portrait of Gabrielle Cot 1890
Oil on canvas17 7/8 x 14 7/8 inches (45.5 x 38 cm)
Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross, USA




Note by ARC Chairman, Fred Ross:This magnificent portrait has been judged by a number of top experts and master artists, to be one of the greatest portrait heads ever painted ... by any artist ... ever.Gabriel Cot was the daughter of Bouguereau’s most famous student, Pierre August Cot. Bouguereau was planning to use her for one of his major paintings, and so he started this as a study for that painting, but, as he worked, he was so captivated by Gabriel’s beauty, including her intense inner beauty, that he finished it as one of his only un-commissioned portraits.I know of no other work that better exemplifies how this master captured the subtle nuances of personality and mood.


Translated title: At the Edge of the Brook 1875
Oil on canvas
Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross, USA.
Commentary by Fred and Kara Ross

This painting is one of the most sensitive single figures ever painted. Hauntingly enigmatic, but kind and beautiful, this young peasant girl’s childhood innocence blends seamlessly with the emerging woman who rivets your eyes to hers. She stares directly at you with a serene kindness imbued with goodness and trust. Inherent is the moral imperative not to betray that trust. This is a prime example of Bouguereau’s unique ability to capture ever subtle nuances of personality and mood.Symbolically she sits by “The Edge of the River”. She sits at perhaps the greatest crossroads in life. Her hands and legs are crossed to accentuate that symbolism as are the trunks of the trees behind and to the viewer's right. She wears a humanistic halo of vibrant red flowers alluding to the spirituality inherent in youth.This masterpiece was the poster painting for the 1984 William Bouguereau retrospective that traveled from Paris’ Petite Palais, to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, and finally to Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum.ARC’s Chairman, Fred Ross was one of 4 people on a symposium held there, along with Dr. Barbara Weinberg, Gergory Hedberg, and a reporter for the local paper.
Translated title: Rest.1879Oil on canvas64 1/2 x 42 1/8 inches (164 x 107 cm)Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USASigned and dated lower left"Though the family depicted in this scene is poor, one can tell that they understand that money does not necessarily buy happiness. The mother tenderly holds her baby with her older son asleep at her feet indicating the joy and peace that can be found in everyday family life and in motherhood. The mother gazes out at her viewers as if to ask how she could possibly need more then she already has, her greatest treasures lying in her arms and at her feet. "-- by Kara Ross.

Translated title: The little beggar 1880
Oil on canvas29 x 46 inches (73.66 x 116.84 cm)
Collection of M.S.Rau Antiques, USA
Signed and dated '1880'
Image courtesy of: M.S Rau Antiques Fine Art Collection.

"A young child sits on a stone block; her hand outstretched begging for money. Around her neck is a necklace made of simple turquoise beads, a stone that is very commonly found and very inexpensive. She looks at the viewer with desperation and exhaustion, causing a feeling of sadness in the viewer who knows she cannot be helped. Behind her is a breathtaking expanse of jagged rocks and boulders, reflecting the harshness of her life. Bouguereau often depicted the plight of the poor and downtrodden. By bringing to life the despair of those less fortunate he hoped to influence the wealthy and powerful in society to come to their aid. The Little Beggar Maid is a prime example of this type of theme, but there are many others including Little Beggars, Grape Picker, Yvonette, Far from home, and Little Girl Holding Apples in Her Hands."-- by Kara Ross"Few others of his era played as great a role in correcting the wrongs of society as did William Bouguereau. He single-handedly used all of his power, fame and influence to change the policies of, first the Academy Julien, and later the Academy Francais to permit for the first time ever, women artists to study and train with the men."-- by Fred Ross.


Translated title: At the Fountain 1897
Oil on canvas60 1/8 x 37 inches (153 x 94 cm
Private collection
Signed and dated lower left.



Tanslated title: Art and Literature 1867
Oil on canvas78 5/8 x 42 1/2 inches (200 x 108 cm)
Arnot Art Museum Elmira, New York City, New York, USA
Signed and dated middle left.




Translated title: The Knitter 1884
Oil on canvas53 7/8 x 39 7/8 inches (137 x 101.5 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA
Signed and dated lower right.




Translated title: On the Rocky Beach 1896
Oil on canvas55 7/8 x 36 inches (142 x 91.5 cm)
Detroit Institute of Art, USASigned and dated lower left




Translated title: The Jewel of the Fields 1884
Oil on canvas64 1/8 x 35 3/8 inches (163 x 90 cm)
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montreal, Canada.


Translated title: The Broken Pitcher 1891
Oil on canvas52 1/4 x 33 5/8 inches (133 x 85.5 cm)
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.

Translated title: The Crab.1869
Oil on canvas31 7/8 x 25 3/4 inches (81 x 65.5 cm
Private collection Bacchante 1894
Oil on canvasPrivate collection.



Though careful draftsmanship the successful artist would be able to replicate objects in real world-human figures, animals, trees and rock, architecture, and costumes-in order to insert them in his paintings, But these elements from the real world were to be idealized, stripped of their imperfections and made more beautiful than they were in actuality, for the paintings in which they appeared were not scenes from everyday life. but scenes that evoked a better, purer time and place. Bouguereau and artists like him used models, living people in the present, to create visions of a world apart. To characterized their works as "escapist" misses the point, for the spotless and adorable children, the nymphs and shepherdesses, and even the Madonnas in this idealizing tradition were drawn from actual life.

Images Courtesy of artrenewal.org

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