Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bouguereau's preparatory drawings for Nymphs and Satyrs

Lets look at some preparatory drawings that Bouguereau did for the Nymphs and Satyrs. The first are thumbnails, the little scribble like drawings that artists use to brainstorm their ideas for paintings.

There were certainly more than these, but you can see the evolution of the idea from the top to the lower sketch. Next Bouguereau works up studies of the individual figures . Here are a few of those.

Here is the Satyr drawing. According to mythology, satyrs were afraid of water. It may have taken them a long time to dry.

Here are two of the nymphs, and then my favorite.

I am particularly fond of the drawing of the woman on the left. She has a broad based appeal.

Here is the girl who is shoving down cruelly on our hapless satyr from behind. If you look at the sketches above it looks like Bouguereau has discarded the pose for this figure, from the second of the three thumbnails above. I believe he did this in order to give a rhythmic echo to the angle of the figure on the lower right which the pose he finally used does.

Here is a painted color study. The reproduction I found is in black and white though.

I want to show a closeup of one of the nymphs.

Notice the modelling here. All of the lights are one big shape. This gives a delicacy and an elegance that removes this painting from the commonplace. Rather than chopping up the big shape of the light .
The modulations within that shape expressing the forms are very subtle. This is no little thing. If you have drawn figures, you have seen how easy it is to get caught up in the over expression of the roundness's of the forms and lose the big look. This is called overmodelling. It makes a drawing look muddy.

It is because of this kind of idealization, ( for that is what such a statement of the lights is ). that the picture is one of frolicking nymphs rather than naked hippies.
This gives a delicacy and an elegance that removes this painting from the commonplace.

Those who dismiss technique and its importance miss the idea that part of the art is contained in the technique itself. Non painters tend to think that a painting can be thought, rather than crafted into existence.


How the thing is made is part of how it looks, the two are indivisible.The delicacy and restraint with which Bouguereau operates here is in itself artful. This handling is, like the subtle playing of a musical instrument, artistic.

More tomorrow................Stape

images from:
William Bouguereau published by the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford CT.


Unknown said...

It is amazing how lightly modeled his flesh tones are. I am always trying to simplify and not overmodel my charcoal drawings, but it is easy to go too far. Your close-up of the nymph shows just how little value change is necessary to indicate a roundness of form. I gotta try that.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Check back to Tuesday, February 24 I wrote a post on suppressing values in the lights, I know there are others but I can't remember where I put them. There is also a post on the bed bug line that covers that.
I am going to write on edges next. Bouguereau week is over.

jeff said...

Where did you find those drawings?
I have never seen them, thanks for posting this. There are so few of his drawings around.

It is interesting to see his process.

Stapleton Kearns said...

jeff; The drawings are in a catalogue of a show at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford CT. in 1983. I saw the show and it was unbelievable they had room after room of Bouguereau paintings. I expect its long out of print. I don't lend books. No way, no how....Stape