Wednesday, October 7, 2015

26 Works, RELIGIOUS ART - Paintings from the Bible by the Old Masters - William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 5

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Premier Deuil, First Mourning. 1888
Oil on canvas
203 x 252 cm, (79¾" x 99")
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

First Mourning; "The dead body of Abel lies across Adam's lap in the same manner as Christ is often depicted lying across Mary's (such as in Michaelangelo's Pieta). Adam clutches his heart out of grief fearing it will break and Eve kneels by his side crying uncontrollably, her face buried in her hands. The image is truly heart wrenching, causing the viewer to feel a great sense of compassion for the grieving couple. Bouguereau can capture the look of death with almost frightening directness. He was no stranger to death or to grief. He had five sons, four of whom died before him. First Mourning was painted directly after the death of his second son. This piece is well titled as The First Mourning because it is the first time a human has had to suffer the loss of a loved one. The grief is only magnified by the fact that their son did not just die, but was murdered by their other son Cain, making this also the first act of murder. Cain then fled, leaving Adam and Eve once again alone. Bougureau also cleverly used a play on words in titling this work, because not only are Adam and Eve mourning, but dawn approaches. It is the first 'morning' after the death of Abel. The paining has the same theme as the sculpture First Mourning by Barrias which is located at the Petits Palais in Paris. Bouguereau and Barrias lived and worked during the same period, and both these works were masterpieces that helped to define their creators." -- by Kara Ross

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905) was a French academic painter and traditionalist. In his realistic genre paintings he used mythological themes, making modern interpretations of classical subjects, with an emphasis on the female human body. During his life he enjoyed significant popularity in France and the United States, was given numerous official honors, and received top prices for his work. As the quintessential salon painter of his generation, he was reviled by the Impressionist avant-garde. 

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Le jour des morts (All Saints' Day). 1859. 
Oil on canvas. 
147 x 120 cm. 
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, France

By the early twentieth century, Bouguereau and his art fell out of favor with the public, due in part to changing tastes. In the 1980s, a revival of interest in figure painting led to a rediscovery of Bouguereau and his work. Throughout the course of his life, Bouguereau executed 822 known finished paintings, although the whereabouts of many are still unknown.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Indigent Family (Charity). 1865. 
Oil on canvas. 
75.00x61.00 cm
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL, USA. 

Traditionally, Charity was represented as a mother and children but here Bouguereau gives the theme a new twist as the mother and children are, themselves, in need of charity. A destitute family of a barefoot mother and her three young children sit huddled on the lower steps of the Church of the Madeleine, Paris. The symmetry of the pyramidal composition and low viewpoint lend the group a sense of monumentality. The mother's sorrowful gaze toward the viewer is reminiscent of a Madonna and further suggests the idea of a secular altarpiece in which the group of figures take on an allegorical dimension. In the top right hand corner, a poster containing an extract from a sermon on charity by the radical priest Father Lacordaire reiterates Bouguereau's intended meaning. A preliminary drawing for Charity shows a line of Parisian rooftops in the left background. However, the finished painting shows the Campidoglio Palace in Rome, aligning this work with the contemporary vogue for Italian beggar subjects and diminishing the element of social critique for its Parisian audience. More Vads

He was born in La Rochelle, France, into a family of wine and olive oil merchants. He seemed destined to join the family business but for the intervention of his uncle Eugène, a Roman Catholic priest, who taught him classical and Biblical subjects, and arranged for Bouguereau to go to high school, where he showed artistic talent. 

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
The Annunciation. c. 1888.
Oil on canvas.
92.7 x 50.8 cm.
Private collection.

The Annunciation. The archangel Gabriel was sent by God' to Mary. Gabriel announced to her that she was to give birth to a son, Jesus, who 'will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David, and he will be king over Israel for ever; his reign shall never end'. '"I am the Lord's servant," said Mary; "may it be as you have said." Then the angel left her.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
The Visitation. c. 1885. 
353 x 190 cm. 
Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Paris, France.

Visitation, the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin St. Elizabeth soon after the Annunciation, is described by St. Luke (1:39-56). It was a meeting of mutual rejoicing: Mary had conceived and Elizabeth was in the sixth month of pregnancy with her future son, St. John the Baptist. When Elizabeth saw Mary and heard her greetings, 'the baby stirred in her womb.'

His father was convinced by a client to send him to the École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, where he won first prize in figure painting for a depiction of Saint Roch. To earn extra money, he designed labels for jams and preserves.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
The Thank Offering. 1867.
Oil on canvas. 147 x 107 cm.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA. 

Through his uncle, Bouguereau was given a commission to paint portraits of parishioners, and when his aunt matched the sum he earned, Bouguereau went to Paris and became a student at the École des Beaux-Arts. To supplement his formal training in drawing, he attended anatomical dissections and studied historical costumes and archeology. He was admitted to the studio of François-Edouard Picot, where he studied painting in the academic style. 

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Tobias Saying Goodbye to his Father, c. 1860
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum.

Academic painting placed the highest status on historical and mythological subjects and Bouguereau won the coveted Prix de Rome at age 26 in 1850, with his Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes. 

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Christ Meeting His Mother on the Way to Calvary. c. 1888. 
Oil on canvas.
354 x 199 cm. 
Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Paris, France

Christ was commanded to carry His cross to the place of execution on the mount of Calvary. 

His reward was a year at the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy, where in addition to formal lessons he was able to study first-hand the Renaissance artists and their masterpieces, as well as Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities. He also studied classical literature, which influenced his subject choice for the rest of his career.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Pieta, c. 1876
Oil on canvas
230 x 148 cm, (90½" x 58¼")
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (Dallas, Texas, United States)

The Pietà, 1876, provides a very unique depiction of this most famous of imagery. The weeping Mary cloaked in a robe of black is mourning the death of her son whom she holds to her chest. The dead body of Jesus limply hangs in her arms while eight weeping angels surround them. The angels are clad in the colors of the rainbow and create an arc over Mary and Jesus. In the Old Testament, after the great flood had ended, Noah and his family saw an arcing rainbow, which was a sign from God that the flood was over and the world could be born anew. In Bouguereau's Pietà, the rainbow symbolizes that the sacrifice of Jesus was complete and that the human soul can be born anew and ascend to God after death. Mary looks out and up. It is intended to be unclear whether if from her seated position she is focused on the viewer or the heavens with her swollen red eyes, filled with sorrow and accusation. Most likely as a mother mourns the loss of her child, she is accusing both the heavens and the earth for the pain she and her son has suffered. This interpretation of Mary is different from Michelangelo's Pietà or many other versions, where Mary is offering her child to the world. Bouguereau's Mary clutches Christ, not offering him to a sinful world that required her son's sacrifice. At Jesus' feet lies the crown of thorns used to mock him during the Crucifixion; it lies on a white cloth covered in the blood of Christ, showing the torment Jesus went though in order that humanity could attain salvation. The white robe and pitcher of water represent the purity of Jesus' soul. Both Jesus and Mary are surrounded by a halo of light indicating their holiness. This painting was inspired by the death of Bouguereau's eldest son, George, who died directly before Bouguereau started work on this piece in 1875. Bouguereau had the grave misfortune to have lost 4 of his five children during his lifetime. 

-by Kara Lysandra Ross

Raphael was a favorite of Bouguereau and he took this review as a high compliment. He had fulfilled one of the requirements of the Prix de Rome by completing an old-master copy of Raphael’s The Triumph of Galatea. In many of his works, he followed the same classical approach to composition, form, and subject matter. Bouguereau's graceful portraits of women were considered very charming, partly because he could beautify a sitter while also retaining her likeness.

In 1856, he married Marie-Nelly Monchablon and subsequently had five children. By the late 1850s, he had made strong connections with art dealers, particularly Paul Durand-Ruel (later the champion of the Impressionists), who helped clients buy paintings from artists who exhibited at the Salons. Thanks to Paul Durand-Ruel, Bouguereau met Hugues Merle, who later often was compared to Bouguereau. The Salons annually drew over 300,000 people, providing valuable exposure to exhibited artists] Bouguereau’s fame extended to England by the 1860s, and he bought a large house and studio in Montparnasse with his growing income.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Le Saintes Femmes au Tombeau, c. 1890
Oil on canvas
Private collection (United States)

Le Saintes Femmes au Tombeau, 1890, translated to The Holy Women at the Tomb, depicts the three Marys, Mary the Mother of James, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Cleophas, at the tomb of the resurrection. The viewer, compositionally, is placed in a prostrated position and looking up first notices the expressions of bewilderment on the central Mary's face before looking past the three women and into the tomb. The tomb is filled with light and the viewer can only catch a glimpse of the "angel of the resurrection" with his arm raised. This is a very clever arrangement. The viewer feels as though they are there with the Marys and that they have stumbled onto this event, bringing it into the present. This painting was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1890, and though a critic after viewing the piece at that time said that Bouguereau "always showed the same thing", the perspective used in this painting and the overall composition is most original and was a tour de force of perspective and foreshortening; which can be clearly seen in the severe angle of the tomb entranceway. The painting now hangs in the collection of the Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Antwerp, Belgium. -by Kara Lysandra Ross

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
La Vierge au Lys,  The Virgin of the Lilies, c. 1899
Oil on canvas
Private collection

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Vierge Consolatrice, The Virgin of Consolation, c. 1875
Oil on canvas
204 x 148 cm, (80¼" x 58¼")
Les Musees de la Ville de Strasbourg (France)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Madone Assise, The Seated Madonna, c. 1888
Oil on canvas
176.5 x 103 cm, (69¼" x 40½")
Art Gallery of South Australia (Adelaide, Australia)

Bouguereau was a staunch traditionalist whose genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects, both pagan and Christian, with a concentration on the naked female human body. The idealized world of his paintings brought to life goddesses, nymphs, bathers, shepherdesses, and madonnas in a way that appealed to wealthy art patrons of the era.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
La Madone aux Roses, The Madonna of the Roses, c. 1903
Oil on canvas
130 x 90.5 cm, (51" x 35½")
The Gould Mansion Tarrytown (New York, New York, United States)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Promenade à âne, Donkey Ride, c. 1878
Oil on canvas
241.3 x 107.2 cm, (94¾" x 42")
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens (Jacksonville, Florida, United States)

He employed traditional methods of working up a painting, including detailed pencil studies and oil sketches, and his careful method resulted in a pleasing and accurate rendering of the human form. His painting of skin, hands, and feet was particularly admired. He also used some of the religious and erotic symbolism of the Old Masters, such as the "broken pitcher" which connoted lost innocence.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Regina Angelorum, c. 1900
Oil on canvas
285 x 185 cm, (112" x 72¾")
Musee du Petit Palais (Paris, France)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
La Vierge, L'Enfant Jesus et Saint Jean Baptiste, The Virgin, the Baby Jesus and Saint John the Baptist, c. 1875
Oil on canvas
200.5 x 122 cm, (78¾" x 48")
Private collection

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
La Vierge, L'Enfant Jesus et Saint Jean Baptiste, The Virgin, Baby Jesus and Saint John the Baptist, c. 1881
Oil on canvas
190.5 x 111 cm, (74¾" x 43½")
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art Cornell University (United States)

Bouguereau received many commissions to decorate private houses, public buildings, and churches. As was typical of such commissions, Bouguereau would sometimes paint in his own style, and at other times conform to an existing group style. Early on, Bouguereau was commissioned in all three venues, which added enormously to his prestige and fame. 

File:William Adolphe Bouguereau The Holy Family.jpg
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Sainte Famille. The Holy Family. 1863
Oil on canvas
137 x 108 cm, (53¾" x 42½")
Private collection

He also made reductions of his public paintings for sale to patrons, of which The Annunciation (1888) is an example. He was also a successful portrait painter and many of his paintings of wealthy patrons remain in private hands. He steadily gained the honors of the Academy, reaching Life Member in 1876, and Commander of the Legion of Honor and Grand Medal of Honor in 1885. He began to teach drawing at the Académie Julian in 1875, a co-ed art institution independent of the École des Beaux-Artss.

File:William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1880).jpg
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
The Flagellation of Christ. 1880. 
Oil on canvas. 
390 x 210 cm. 
La Rochelle Cathedral, La Rochelle, France.

The Flagellation of Christ, 1880 is one of Bouguereau's masterpieces, and today hangs at the Baptistery of La Rochelle Cathedral, France. Christ, tied to a column, limply hangs, his feet dragging on the ground and head hung back, he submits to his fate. Two men stand in mid swing with their whipping ropes, with a third kneeling to the lower right fastening birch branches for the next stage of the torture. Unlike the two men who are whipping or the forth man standing behind with birch branches in the ready, the kneeling man tying the branches appears to show some remorse for his actions as his hand muscles loosen slightly with the pull of the string. The viewer can feel the pain of Christ's torment, though his eyes are vacant of expression as if his soul is in another place. The crowd surrounding this event is filled with curious spectators. To the left, a young boy shelters his eyes from the horrid sight by turning his back and pressing himself against his mother. To the right, just above Christ's head, a baby looks down at him sympathetically while hoisted up on his father's shoulders. Through the crowd, a bearded man looks directly at the viewer, thereby pulling the audience into the scene as if they are too part of the crowd. It is possible that this bearded man with furrowed brow is a self portrait, so both Bouguereau and the viewer are witnessing this scene. This life size capa d'opera is every bit as magnificent as any religious works done by Raphael, Caravaggio, or Velasquez. The harmonious interplay of drawing, paint handling, composition, perspective and emotional thrust are second to none in their expressive power. - -by Kara Lysandra Ross

In 1877, both his wife and infant son died. At a rather advanced age, Bouguereau was married for the second time in 1896, to fellow artist Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau, one of his pupils. He used his influence to open many French art institutions to women for the first time, including the Académie française.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
Compassion! c. 1897
Oil on canvas
280 x 130 cm - (110" x 51")
Musee d'Orsay (Paris, France)

When one looks at The Compassion, 1897, at first glance the viewer may interpret this painting be simply a depiction of Christ on the Cross, with perhaps another saint, or victim. A depiction not too different from thousands of other paintings of the subject; but in fact, the subject of this painting is not simply the event, but the conversion to Christianity through the compassion for the sacrifice Jesus made. The man with his head on Jesus' chest is a representation of every man and mankind as a whole. The man in the painting shows the same empathy and bearing his own symbolic cross, has found his way to Jesus and his own redemption. Many Christians wear crosses around their necks to represent the same conviction, that they too have been sacrificed with Christ. In the bible, when Jesus fell on his way to Calvary, a man from the crowd, Simon of Cyrene, went to Jesus and carried the cross for him, which was the inspiration for this widely accepted symbol. The blood of Christ falls onto his hands, reiterating the blood sacrifice that was made for his benefit. On top of the cross a letter is posted which reads "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" in three languages, Greek, Latin, and Aramaic. Although in many depictions, Christ is crucified at the top of a mountain, Bouguereau chooses to depict the savior on a barren wasteland, symbolic of the man"s spiritual life before finding his way to Christ. Bouguereau chose to keep this painting, which shows the importance his religion played in his own life, and it remained in his studio until its recent donation to the Musèe D'Orsay, Paris, France.  - by Kara Lysandra Ross

Near the end of his life he described his love of his art: "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 next morning to come ... if I cannot give myself to my dear painting I am miserable."

In the spring of 1905, Bouguereau's house and studio in Paris were burgled. On August 19, 1905, Bouguereau died in La Rochelle at the age of 79 from heart disease

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
La Vierge aux Anges (After Restoration) c. -1881
oil on canvas
Private collection

Vierge Aux Anges, Song of Angels, 1881, hangs at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, CA, USA. The serene Mary and baby Jesus sleep, surrounded by nature, as three angels play them a lullaby. All the figures are painted with beautiful, ethereal, perfection. When Bouguereau painted a series of angels, he usually used the same figure multiple times. In the Pieta, 1876, the eight angels are only two different individuals, and in Regina Angelorum, 1900, all twenty-one angels are the same girl. Song of Angels is no different. Bouguereau strived for perfection and would often use the hands of one model, the eyes of another, hair from yet a third, etc. In his religious works and his depictions of the holy, he took extra care in finding a compelling human image that could capture the divine, and once he found what he wanted, he did not stray. I believe this was also a statement on the nature of the divine; that a holy presence may feel as powerful as the souls of many, but in truth, it is one power. The three angels in Vierge Aux Anges are also a foreshadowing of the nature of the holy trinity, and are representative of the father, the son and the holy ghost. The mother and child sleep in peace unaware of the suffering that is destined to follow. -by Kara Lysandra Ross

Having died in 1905, we can suppose it best that he was not here to see the successful assault on traditional art that turned the art world inside out and upside down in the decades that followed his death. His fate was to be much like that of Rembrandt, whose work was also ridiculed and banished from museums and official art circles for the hundred years following his death. 

Rembrandt's reputation wasn't resuscitated until the 1790's (he died in 1669) due to the influence of the founder of the Royal Academy in London, Sir Joshua Reynolds. Even as recently as 1910, Reynolds paintings brought higher prices at auction than Rembrandt. Bouguereau's re-appreciation can rather accurately be traced from about 1979 when his prices at auction quadrupled that year alone, and then was further catapulted by the 1984 retrospective that traveled from the Petite Palais in Paris, to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada and finally to the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford. In 1980 The Metropolitan Museum in New York permanently hung two of his works that been left in storage from early in the century.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825 - 1905
La Charité, Charity, c. 1859
Oil on canvas
116.5 x 90 cm, (45¾" x 35¼")
The University of Michigan Museum of Art (Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States)

La Charité depicts a beautiful woman caring and protecting five young children giving them her nurturing, sustenance, and knowledge. The nurturing is represented by her bared breasts indicating her intent to allow the children to nurse from her, and illustrating her willingness to give of herself for their well being. Under her left foot is an overturned jug with gold and silver coins flowing out of it. This symbol reveals that there is no cost too great for their happiness, and that she is willing spend what ever money it takes to ensure it, even if it's everything that she has. By her right foot a boy is leaning on a pile of books, showing her intent to educate them and give them the gift of knowledge. Charity is a truly exquisite painting using symbolic imagery to portray the true meaning of selflessness and of course charity." -- by Kara Ross

William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Soul Carried to Heaven, c.1878
Oil on Canvas
275 x 180 cm
Musee du Perigord

These are only a small portion of Bouguereau's religious paintings of which there are approximately 65 which makes up about eight percent of his total oeuvre. The recently published Catalogue Raisonné on the artist by Damien Bartoli and Fred Ross, clearly illustrates through over 760 examples of this artist's work, the tremendous fortitude of Bouguereau's prowess with the brush. Winning almost every award and accolade during his life, and residing as president of many institutions, Bouguereau's fame was equal to that of Victor Hugo, his contemporary, and as an artist, he was as well known then as Picasso is today. His death in 1905 was mourned throughout all of France, and by others around the world as well. More

Acknowledgement: WikipediaOlga's Gallery

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