Παρασκευή, 6 Ιουλίου 2012

William Bouguereau Art


William Bouguereau - La Naissance de Vénus (1879)

The Birth of Venus (La Naissance de Vénus), oil on canvas painting of 1879 by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 300 cm x 218 cm (120 in x 86 in), Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The Birth of Venus (La Naissance de Vénus) is one of the most famous paintings by the French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), who was a traditionalist who painted his works in a photo-realistic style with a pronounced emphasis on the beauty of women’s body.

Bouguereau’s Birth of Venus seeks to show not the actual birth of Venus, but the travel of Venus in a seashell to the seashore at Paphos (or Pafos) the coastal city in the southwest of Cyprus, after her birth as a fully grown-up woman. In its composition this Venus reminds the viewers of The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, and The Triumph of Galatea, a fresco (1512) created for the Villa Farnesina in Rome by the Italian artist Raphael.


 William Bouguereau - Elegy (Douleur d’amour) (1899)

Elegy (Douleur d'amour), oil on canvas painting of 1899 by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), private collection.

Elegy (Douleur d’amour), oil painting of 1899 by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, showing a grieving woman over a tombstone, possibly Venus along with Cupid.


William Bouguereau - Nymphs and Satyr (1873)

Nymphs and Satyr (Nymphes et Satyre) 180 cm x 260 cm (5' 10.87" x 8' 6.36") is an oil painting created by the French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau in 1873.
The Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States

Nymphs, in Greek mythology, are minor female deities or divine spirits who are depicted as young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing. They are associated with elements of nature such as mountains, valleys, meadows, groves, springs, ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, etc. Some nymphs are often seen depicted with gods such as Dionysus, Hermes, Pan and others.

Satyrs are male companions of Pan and Dionysus. In art, satyrs are sometimes depicted as strongly built muscular creatures with flat noses, horse-like pointed ears, curly long hair and beards, with crowns of vine or ivy on their bald heads. They are often described in Latin literature as creatures whose upper halves are like men and the lower halves are of goats. They are also described as roguish and dangerous but faint-hearted, cowardly creatures. They love wine and women, and love all physical pleasures, and are obsessed with nymphs, whom they often pursue.

Bouguereau’s painting, a three dimensional rendering of form and movement, depicts a group of nymphs bathing in a secluded pond. They have captured a satyr spying on them. Four nymphs are pulling the satire down to the pond, one of them signaling with one hand to the other nymphs in the background to come and join them. The satyr, though enchanted with the nymphs, is trying to resist the nymphs’ efforts.


William Bouguereau - Lost Pleiad (1884)

This image depicts a Pleiad, a figure from the Pleiades of Greek mythology who were said to be women that were transformed into stars in the night sky.

I have no complaint about the representational skill with which this figure has been painted; instead my criticism lies with how the canvas was painted. The “space” inherent in this subject—the isolated situation of the Pleiad in the night sky—seems to have presented Bouguereau with a compositional problem that he was not able to overcome. 

One could also say it presented him with an opportunity he was not interested in or able to make use of. To me, this painting appears bland, half-hearted or even unfinished. The sparse composition does nothing to convey any ideas about the subject with any forcefulness. 

In this particular painting, the space isn’t full enough, empty enough or simply made use of enough to be a means of integrating content into representation*. The figure’s hands and the tips of her long hairs are close to the edges of the canvas, but seemingly without purpose. Her suspension in space is more like a cheap trick available to the medium of painting rather than a realistically weightless woman in the night sky. Likewise, her pose has the stiffness of having too much unity of design, that is, the parallel shapes of her arms and legs sap the energy out of what could have been a compelling pose within a strikingly designed format.*

Unfortunately, I think this is yet another painting of a beautiful body that Bouguereau tried to inflate with meaning by associating it with a topic he thought his audience would consider lofty—Greek mythology.

*For a truly great example of an artistic use of empty space I recommend Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.


William Bouguereau - L’aurore (Dawn) (1881)

L'aurore (Dawn), oil painting of 1881 by William Adolphe Bouguereau at Birmingham Museum of Art, USA

L'aurore (Dawn), oil on canvas painting of 1881 by French Academic artist William Adolphe Bouguereau, dimensions 107 cm x 215 cm, Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, United States

In this painting William Adolphe Bouguereau depicts the Greek goddess Eos, the goddess of dawn. According to Greek mythology, she rises from her home at the edge of Oceanus (ocean) to herald the Sun (Helios), her brother. With her ‘rosy fingers’, she opens heaven’s gates so that the Sun can ride his chariot across the sky every day.

Eos is the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, and the sister of the Sun (Helios) and the Moon (Selene).
The Roman mythological equivalent of Eos is Mater Matuta, the indigenous Roman goddess, whom the Romans made equivalent to Aurora, the goddess of dawn.

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