Monday I had a unique opportunity to spend a couple of very pleasant hours up close to the Bouguereau at the Weisman gallery in Malibu, thanks to Michael Zakian, the curator and art historian at Pepperdine University. Alexey Steele, Tony Pro, Jeremy Lipking, Mike Adams and I had a wonderful time getting close to the paintings and taking the opportunity to really examine the detail of these lovely works. There’s a photo of us together on Facebook looking like a bunch of gangsters.
I’ve posted a photo of the painting, then a close up of the beautifully painted hand that rests upon her hip, which I sketched out for reference. This morning I had some time to chat with John Nava, the amazing painter and creator of the figurative tapestries at the Los Angeles Cathedral, and we briefly discussed Bougeureau, who we both admire for his technical skill. John pointed out that despite his technical excellence there’s a lack of substance in the great Frenchman’s work – and I have to agree that his work tends to be sentimental althoughhis skill is so intensely wonderful that it transcends his lack of depth.
On the reverse side of the same wall there is a little study for a different painting that is of great interest to studio painters seeking to emulate the technique of the great French academic artist. In this little picture we can see the process of painting in his method. First a drawn sketch to feel out the composition, then a little painted sketch like this example, inking out the outlines and making a loose generalization of the areas of colour. Next, a more formal drawing of the shapes on a large canvas, then rendering the actual painting.