Tuesday, April 21, 2009

William Adolphe Bouguereau - Donkey Ride

William Adolphe Bouguereau - Promenade a Ane - Donkey Ride 1878
Cummer Museum of Art, Jacksonville, Florida


Adolphe William Bouguereau was born in 1825 in La Rochelle on the west coast of France. As a boy he began to show talent in his early drawings. He wanted to attend art school but his parents wanted him to work in their business. It was a client of theirs who convinced them to send him to school at Bordeaux’s School of Fine Arts.

After Bordeaux he needed money to go on to Paris for further training. His uncle convinced his parishioners to have their portraits painted. The money from this and a loan from an Aunt gave him his chance. The investment would prove to be a wise one. He would study drawing at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris and would learn painting from an established artist,
Francois-Edouard Picot. Winning the Grand Prix of Rome in 1850 earned him a chance to visit Italy to study the works of Italian masters and learn classical styles.

Bouguereau was to be a staunch supporter of the classical art forms and his early successes were based on historical and mythological themes. In 1854 he was awarded portrait and decorative commissions and succeeded in large paintings displayed and sold both in the Paris Salon and in the open market. He gained many commissions to decorate interiors of churches and government buildings. However, government support for this type of work was curtailing and he needed to find new ways to earn income from his art.

Americans were beginning to accumulate wealth and collect art. Fortunately for Bouguereau they were eager for his depictions of youth, pastoral family scenes, the poor, and passionately animated biblical and mythological themes.

Realism runs throughout his work. In all of his subjects, whether a peasant girl, an angel or a mythical satyr the image is wholly believable. Drawing was essential. He would make many preliminary sketches in both pencil and watercolor with detail sketches of a face, hands or feet. He never missed an opportunity to show his ability to render exquisite hands and feet.

He was so tied to the image, he would often be at a loss to title a painting. Even the work he considered his masterpiece had the unassuming title "The Donkey Ride", which his dealer renamed "Return from the Harvest".

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I grew up in Chautauqua County, NY. I graduated from Edinboro University of Pennyslvania in 1981 with a BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking. I have been married 31 years. I currently run a small business with my husband. We both enjoy the outdoors and animals a great deal and live on a tiny farm in Western, NY.