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
"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 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.
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.