Friday, June 09, 2006

The Bouguereau Style: Elizabeth & William

When Elizabeth Jane Gardner sailed to France, she probably had no idea that her life was going to become rather complicated, and quite full.

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Elizabeth Jane Gardner

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William Adolphe Bouguereau

From Lawrence J. Cantor & Co., the following quotations:“While copying old masters in Boston, trying to supplement her ‘polite’ art education, Gardner became convinced that her drawing was inadequate and that she needed thorough European training. In 1864 she sailed for Paris,” and a bright future.

Leaving her native New Hampshire, Elizabeth was traveling to Paris, there to study painting under the influential painter William Bouguereau. It is believed that after her marriage to him, she became a very important influence in his decision to push for the opening of the Academie Julien, and a few years later the École des Beaux Arts, to women for the first time in history. She was his second marriage following the death of his first wife.

“Gardner became an accomplished painter, the first American woman to exhibit in the Paris Salon, in 1866, and the first to win a gold medal (from her painting, Impudence in 1877). Her studio on the Rue Notre Dame des Champs became a mecca for visiting Americans traveling abroad.

“She clearly adopted the style and technique of her mentor and husband, William Bouguereau. In an oft-quoted remark, she frankly revealed, ‘I would rather be known as the best imitator of Bouguereau than be nobody.’ Certainly, her technical skill and draftsmanship are notable.”

About William Bouguereau, one biographer had this to say: “William Bouguereau is unquestionably one of history's greatest artistic geniuses. Yet in the past century, his reputation and unparalleled accomplishments have undergone a libelous, dishonest, relentless and systematic assault of immense proportions. His name was stricken from most history texts and when included it was only to blindly, degrade and disparage him and his work. Yet, as we shall see, it was he who single-handedly opened the French academies to women, and it was he who was arguably the greatest painter of the human figure in all of art history. His figures come to life like no previous artist has ever before or ever since achieved. He wasn’t just the best ever at painting human anatomy, more importantly he captured the tender and subtlest nuances of personality and mood. Bouguereau caught the very souls and spirits of his subjects much like Rembrandt. Rembrandt is said to have captured the soul of age. Bouguereau captured the soul of youth.

“Considering his consummate level of skill and craft, and the fact that the great preponderance of his works are life-size, it is one of the largest bodies of work ever produced by any artist. Add to that the fact that fully half of these paintings are great masterpieces, and we have the picture of an artist who belongs like Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Carravaggio, in the top ranks of only a handful of masters in the entire history of western art.”

I think you may agree with me that his teaching was a large influence on Elizabeth’s painting. Their works are so similar that it’s difficult to pick one over the other. That’s why I am posting them as a pair. Bouguereau, is the name, and the art is magnificent! I hope you’ll find it as beautiful as I do!

Click on the image to enlarge!

'Garde' by Elizabeth Bouguereau

E.B. “Garde”

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W.B. "Young Gypsies"

'Bubbles' by Elizabeth Bouguereau

E.B. “Bubbles”

Portrait of Gabrielle Cot – 1890 – William Bouguereau

Portrait of Gabrielle Cot

Okay, compare right and left, especially the top two. Do you see the similarity? Amazing, isn't it? Also, the portrait of Gabrielle Cot ... let me quote again, this time the 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."

More is coming, Folks! Ohhhh, yes! More of the couple is on its way. Are you enjoying? Hmmm, maybe two more?


The Flagellation Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

"The Flagellation Of Our Lord Jesus Christ"

by William Bouguereau

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”A Young Girl Holding A Basket Of Grapes”

by Elizabeth Bouguereau


Anonymous said...

I am especially fond of the last painting! (reminds me of my girls!)

Always On Watch said...

I don't much about visual arts (more of a musician), but these are gorgeous.

I find it refreshing to take a break from politics and contemplate some beauty, for a change.

benning said...

anna: awwww! :D I forget about these two, then rediscover them and am just recaptured. Same thing with so many of my favorite painters. And ... AOW: Musicians, as well! LOL

I kept thinking of what to post, and wanted so badly to get away from the political - I love the battle, but that's not what the blog is for - and I came across one of the paintings and it struck me: Blog on your Painter faves, Dude!

(Yeah, I actualy said, "Dude." Sheesh!)

Classical musicians are not far behind!

Anonymous said...

You will, of course, post long and glowingly of Mozart, right?! :) I love his pieces, they are so passionate and so many he scribbled out in a flash to have money to pay his rent!

BTW, nice new painting at the top of the blog, there, benning!

Brooke said...

These are very lovely! Thank you!

It's amazing how the artist makes the portraits look so warm.

benning said...

Y'know, it's hard not to jump in and post all the artists that I love. So I have to calm down and not overdo it. LOL

Tough to do!

blogagog said...

Apparently his paintings have had a lot of influence on my art as well! I'm just an ameteur, but I've been working on a painting with a girl picking grapes for about 6 months now, and it looks almost exactly like the painting in your post!

You can see it here, but be kind - it's a work in progress. As you can see, I'm not very good at drawing hands yet, but I'm learning!

benning said...

blog: I like the symmetry of your grapes, but they lack some depth - perhaps adding some dew to them?


blogagog said...

Gotcha :)