About Christian

Author for Pigtails in Paint since September 2014; associate editor since November 2015. In charge of Categories and Tags, plus various layout problems. My site: https://agapeta.art/

Random images: Virginie Demont-Breton

Virginie Élodie Marie Thérèse Demont-Breton (1859–1935) is a French genre painter. Daughter of the painter and engraver Jules Breton and niece of the painter Émile Breton, she married the painter Adrien Demont. They had three daughters, and one of them, Adrienne Ball-Demont, would become a painter and sculptor.

She had a precocious artistic career, exhibiting her paintings at the Salon des artistes français in 1880 and obtaining the gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in 1883, 1889 and 1900.

Her early works consist mainly of portraits and historical or mythological scenes in the academic style. After settling in the village of Wissant on the North Sea coast in 1890, she started painting the life of fishermen and their families, in a naturalistic style.

My first selection is one of her early works. At an auction at Sotheby’s, it has been estimated between US$40,000 and $60,000.

Virginie Demont-Breton - Une surprise (1879)

Virginie Demont-Breton – Une surprise (1879)

My second selection dates from the period when she moved to Wissant. It was also auctioned by Sotheby’s, being estimated between $30,000 and $40,000.

Virginie Demont-Breton - Fillette à la guirlande de fleurs des champs (c.1890)

Virginie Demont-Breton – Fillette à la guirlande de fleurs des champs (c.1890)

Virginie Demont-Breton was deeply committed to the recognition of women painters. She joined the Union des femmes peintres et sculpteurs in 1883, and was its president from 1895 to 1901. Together with the sculptor Hélène Bertaux, she obtained the official admission of women to the École des Beaux-Arts and their right to compete to the Prix de Rome.

The nude bathers of Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman - Girls playing near the river

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman – Girls playing near the river

The Dutch painter, watercolourist and draftsman Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman was born on August 25, 1897 in Bad Kreuznach, a town in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany. His father was a mathematics teacher and also a draftsman and painter. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands. Because of his birth in Germany, his name is sometimes spelled in the German way: von Dülmen Krumpelmann.

He followed a private drawing course at the Hendrik de Keyserschool (King Henry school) and continued his studies at the Rijksnormaalschool voor Teekenonderwijzers (National Normal School for Drawing Teachers). In 1918 he became a member of Arti et Amicitiae society in Amsterdam, and regularly exhibited at member exhibitions. Through his contacts with artists August Allebé, George Breitner and Willem Witsen, he developed his own impressionistic style. After his marriage in 1921 he settled in the Drenthe province in the northeastern part of the Netherlands. There he came into contact with painters from Groningen art circle De Ploeg, after which his painting style became looser and more colourful.

He was co-founder of the regional art societies De Drentse Schilders (Painters of Drenthe), then the Drents Schildersgenootschap (Painting Society of Drenthe). In 1958 he won the Cultural Prize of Drenthe. In 1984 the Drents Museum organized a retrospective of his work. He died in the town of Zeegse on June 21, 1987. Of his two sons, the youngest (Erasmus Herman) also became a painter.

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman painted and drew various subjects, landscapes, city and village views, figure scenes and portraits, which are characterized by a smooth, loose brushwork and a bright colour. He became widely known for scenes of naked children bathing in Drenthe’s brooks. I include here a few paintings of bathing girls (I showed my favourite above).

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman - Kinderen bij de Drentse (Children by the Drenthe river)

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman – Kinderen bij de Drentse (Children by the Drenthe river)

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman - Children bathing in the river

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman – Children bathing in the river

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman - Badende meisjes (Bathing girls)

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman – Badende meisjes (Bathing girls)

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman - Bathing girls

Erasmus Bernhard van Dulmen Krumpelman – Bathing girls

Biographical sources:
Dutch Wikipedia page.
Encyclopedie Drenthe Online.

I thank my contact “Foxy” for drawing my attention to this painter.

Random Images: Georges Sauveur Maury

The French painter Georges Sauveur Maury was born on October 6, 1872 in Saint-Denis (near Paris). After studying with Ferdinand Humbert, Alphonse-Alexis Morlot, and Ernest Quost, he married a school teacher in 1902, and had himself a career in teaching. In 1932 he was nominated professor and workshop master in the famous Académie Julian in Paris. He died on August 22, 1960 in Montreuil (near Paris).

Maury mostly painted children, women and flowers, but he is also known for landscapes and orientalist scenes. I show below two of his paintings, showing children.

Georges Sauveur Maury - Les Bouquets

Georges Sauveur Maury – Les Bouquets (1910)

Georges Sauveur Maury - Bain matinal

Georges Sauveur Maury – Bain matinal (1924)

Another version of the second image was given in Pigtails in Paint, with the title “Three Girls by the Sea.”

Farm Girls in Naturalist Painting 4: More Goose Girls

One year ago, I started this series of articles on naturalist paintings of rural girls, and I pointed out that in the 19th century, peasant life was a theme of predilection for the schools of social realism and naturalism, both as a focus on the fate of poor toiling people and as an expression of interest in nature, in contrast with modern urban life.

In peasant families of that time, children participated in farm work, and it seems that herding flocks of geese was a girl’s job. Thus, many 19th century paintings represented goose girls, and indeed, my first article was devoted to The Goose Girl of Mézy by Léon Augustin Lhermitte. Moreover, this topic was the subject of the German fairy tale Die Gänsemagd, collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in Grimm’s Fairy Tales in 1815, which has been illustrated by many artists.

I will thus present here a selection of such paintings. The criteria for my choice have been the quality of the painting and of its digital reproduction, its naturalistic style (as opposed to later schools of Impressionism and Expressionism), and that it shows a young girl, not an adult woman.

I start with Jules Bastien-Lepage, the painter of Pauvre Fauvette presented in my second article. This “goose girl”, dated around 1875, belongs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

Jules Bastien-Lepage - Goose girl (c1875)

Jules Bastien-Lepage – Goose girl (c1875)

One of the most famous painters of the rural world is Jean-François Millet (1814–1875). Many people have seen his Des Glaneuses (1857), showing women gleaning in a field after harvest, and L’Angélus (1857–59), showing a peasant couple praying at the sound of a church bell. Born in the hamlet of Gruchy (now part of the village Gréville-Hague) in Normandy, he worked in the family farm until 1834, when he left to study painting in Cherbourg, then in Paris. In 1849 he moved to Barbizon, east of Paris, where he remained for the rest of his life; he is one of the founders of the famous “Barbizon school” of realist painting.

He briefly returned to his birthplace in 1856, where he painted the following work, now at the National Museum of Wales (image from Tutt’Art@):

Jean-Francois Millet - The goose girl at Gruchy (1856)

Jean-Francois Millet – The goose girl at Gruchy (1856)

In the 1850s and 1860s, he painted several goose girls. One was exhibited at the 1867 Salon, about which he wrote to his friend Sensier: “I want to make the screams of my geese ring through the air. Ah! life, life! the life of the whole!” Here is one these paintings, dated 1866–67; previously owned by Sensier, it belongs now to the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum.

Jean-François Millet - The goose girl (1866-67)

Jean-François Millet – The goose girl (1866-67)

He also painted a nude “goose girl,” but this one is a woman rather than a girl.

The English painter and illustrator Alice Mary Havers (1850–1890) was popular for her genre paintings of village women and rural landscape. Here are two of her goose girls in a beautiful landscape (images from the Art Renewal Center):

Alice Mary Havers - Goosey, goosey gander

Alice Mary Havers – Goosey, goosey gander (date unknown)

Alice Mary Havers - The goose girl

Alice Mary Havers – The goose girl (date unknown)

The Irish novelist Edith Somerville (1858–1949), also a suffragette and Irish nationalist, painted and sketched, illustrating picture books. Here is (from the Crawford Art Gallery) an oil painting showing a goose girl who looks sulky, as she has befriended a goose and does not want to see it served for dinner:

Edith Somerville - The goose girl (1888)

Edith Somerville – The goose girl (1888)

Johann Till the Younger (1827–1894) was an Austrian genre painter. He trained in Vienna under his father Johann Till the Elder, and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna under Leopold Kupelwieser and Christian Ruben. He was member of the Künstlerhaus, an association of visual artists in Vienna. The following image comes from Tutt’Art@ Masterpieces:

Johann Till - The little goose girl

Johann Till – The little goose girl

Gustaf Theodor Wallén (1860–1948) was a Swedish social realist painter, graphic artist, cartoonist and sculptor. He studied at the Academy of Art under George von Rosen. In 1887 he won a travel award to study in Paris at the Académie Colarossi and, under William Bouguereau, at the Academie Julian. The following image comes from the Art Renewal Center:

Gustaf Theodor Wallén - The little goosegirl

Gustaf Theodor Wallén – The little goosegirl

Václav Brožík (1851–1901) was a Czech academic painter. He went to Paris in 1876, and for the rest of his life he divided his time between Paris and Prague. He painted scenes from Czech history, portraits, genre paintings, and landscapes. He was influenced by the two great French naturalist painters of rural life, Jean-Francois Millet and Jules Breton, as can be seen in the following work in the National Gallery in Prague:

Václav Brožík - Goose girl (1880s)

Václav Brožík – Goose girl (1880s)

The Polish realist painter Antoni Gramatyka (1841–1922) studied art in Kraków and Vienna. He mostly worked in Kraków and its neighborhood. He painted landscapes, portraits, church polychromes, day-to-day life in Kraków and rural scenes in surrounding villages.

Antoni Gramatyka - Girl with geese (1881)

Antoni Gramatyka – Girl with geese (1881)

Finally, the great academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, who had so often represented peasant girls, has also made one goose girl (image from the Art Renewal Center):

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - The goose girl (1891)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – The goose girl (1891)

Farm Girls in Naturalist Painting 3: A Harvest of Brown Eyes and Auburn Hair

After poor French peasant girls covered with rags, we will now see English beauties wearing a clean white pinafore while they take part in harvesting and haymaking … probably a less realistic view of rural life.

The son of a painter, George Clausen was born in London on April 18, 1852. He first trained as a draughtsman in the office of the company George Trollope & Sons. He studied at South Kensington School of Art between 1873 and 1875. Then he worked with several academic painters, first in the studio of Edwin Longsden Long, next in 1883 at the Académie Julian in Paris, under William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury.

He soon showed an interest in country life and landscape, and he was particularly influenced by Jean-François Millet and Jules Bastien-Lepage. He admired the naturalism of Bastien-Lepage, and he would write a long essay about him in André Theuriet’s memoir; he praised him while seeing a limitation in his “literal representation” of nature. Indeed, Clausen would to some extent be influenced by Impressionism.

He loved to paint the countryside and rural life in northwest Essex. His major works can be found on Wikimedia Commons, the Art Renewal Center site, ArtUK, and Tate. Many drawings by him, as well as some pastels and watercolours, can be found in the Royal Academy Collection.

Clausen won official recognition, being elected to the Royal Academy, first as an Associate in 1895, then as Academician in 1906, and he taught painting there. During World War I he served as an official war artist. He was knighted in 1927. He died in Newbury, Berkshire, on November 22, 1944. Further details about his life and works can be found on The Victorian Web and the site of The Hundred Parishes Society.

I now present a few paintings by Clausen of peasant girls involved in harvesting or haymaking. They all wear a white dress or a white pinafore. I suspect that the scenes must be idealised, as it is difficult to remain so clean while participating in a rather dirty work.

A girl in a wheat field:

George Clausen - Brown eyes (1891)

George Clausen – Brown eyes (1891)

Next, one near a basket of wheat, while a man harvests behind:

George Clausen - Little Rose (1889)

George Clausen – Little Rose (1889)

Here the background looks like a wheat field:

George Clausen - Head of a young girl (1890)

George Clausen – Head of a young girl (1890)

Here we don’t see a field, but the title says all:

George Clausen - Young rural girl (1896)

George Clausen – Young rural girl (1896)

The rake indicates that the girl has been working:

George Clausen - Noon in the hayfield (1897)

George Clausen – Noon in the hayfield (1897)

This girl is not working, but going to school; however, she still wears a pinafore and she is walking along a field:

George Clausen - Natte / A schoolgirl (1889)

George Clausen – Natte / A schoolgirl (1889)

Readers will probably have noticed that these girls all have brown eyes and auburn hair. Maybe Clausen selected them because these colours are in harmony with those of their work environment: straw, hay, trees and soil. Indeed, he painted several other girls with different eye or hair colours and in a different environment; I mention a few ones here, with a link to the images. First a girl with auburn hair but blue eyes; she still has a white pinafore, but the background only vaguely reminds of hay. Next, two girls with black hair and green eyes: one with a greenish scarf and a dark green coat, surrounded by bright greenery, and one in a green meadow. Finally a girl indoors, with black hair and brown eyes, in front of a brown wall.

We have thus seen how in the choice of a painting, the harmony between the subject and the topic can sometimes involve some little details that would escape the ordinary onlooker.

Farm Girls in Naturalist Painting 2: Pauvre Fauvette

After The Goose Girl of Mézy, here is another rural girl covered with rags.

Jules Bastien-Lepage was born on November 1, 1848, in the village of Damvillers, near Verdun. His father owned a vineyard. He went to Paris in 1867, where he worked some time at the postal service. His first application to the École des beaux-arts de Paris was unsuccessful, but he was nevertheless allowed to follow courses as an aspiring student. The next year he entered the workshop of the academic painter Alexandre Cabanel, where he was trained in drawing. In October 1868, he was finally admitted to the École des beaux-arts. In 1870-71, he fought in the Franco-Prussian war, and was wounded. Then he returned home, where he painted villagers.

In 1875, he won the second place for the famous “Grand Prix de Rome” with his painting L’Annonciation aux bergers. He would soon be recognized in France as the leader of the emerging Naturalist school. His brother Émile (1854–1938) also became a painter, studying with him. Jules died of cancer on December 10, 1884 in Paris, at the age of 36.

His works can be found on Wikimedia Commons, the Art Renewal Center site, WikiArt, and ArtUK. They include many portraits, but also depictions of rural life, in particular work in the fields.

I present here my selection, the portrait of a poorly clad little farm girl. It is an oil painting on canvas, 162.5 × 125.7 cm² (63¾ × 49¼ in²). This image from the Art Renewal Center, with its predominant green colour, is different from most other renderings, which have large patches of yellow and orange. I cannot ascertain which one is more faithful to the original painting, since I don’t know in which month it was made: green would prevail in spring, and orange in autumn.

Jules Bastien-Lepage - Pauvre Fauvette

Jules Bastien-Lepage – Pauvre Fauvette (1881)

The French title translates as “Poor Warbler.” Indeed, the French word fauvette translates as “typical warbler” (a bird in any species of the genus Sylvia). It is also a forename for girls, but a quite rare one: according to French official statistics, only 76 girls born in France between 1900 and 2018 were named Fauvette (and none later than 1970). The bird’s name comes from the word fauve that designates the fawn colour, a somewhat dark orange—the art school of Fauvism is named after that colour. This makes me even more puzzled about the colour of the landscape in the original painting: is it a “fauve” scene?

Bastien-Lepage did another painting of a poorly-clad peasant girl, titled Young Girl. Compare the two renderings of it by the Art Renewal Center and by WikiArt.

My third post in the series will be devoted to the peasant girls painted by George Clausen, in particular to the colour of their eyes and hair, which is in harmony with their participation in harvesting and haymaking.

Farm Girls in Naturalist Painting 1: The Goose Girl of Mézy

This post is the first one in a series of short articles devoted to naturalist paintings of rural girls. Peasant life was a frequent theme in 19th century painting. On the one hand, it expressed an interest in social issues, in particular the fate of poor toiling people. On the other hand, the rural world represented peace, in contrast with the hectic life and rebellious working class of large cities. Among academic painters, William-Adolphe Bouguereau is known for his numerous paintings of dignified peasant or gypsy girls, generally shown with a decent clothing that did often not match their sordid life. The schools of social realism and of naturalism also took an interest in rural life, but they rather showed peasants as they usually were, dirty and covered with rags.

Léon Augustin Lhermitte was born on July 31, 1844, in Mont-Saint-Père, a village along the river Marne in the the department of Aisne, east of Paris. He studied drawing, first at the “Petite École” (now École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs de Paris) under the teaching of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran, then at the École des beaux-arts de Paris. He afterwards had a successful career, winning many awards and international recognition. He made an innovative use of pastels and was admired by Vincent van Gogh. He died in Paris on July 28, 1925, and since then he has fallen into oblivion. He is the great-grandfather of the French actor Thierry Lhermitte.

As with his predecessor Jean-François Millet (1814–1875), peasant life was the main topic of his paintings. See his works shown in Wikimedia Commons and the Art Renewal Center site. He was dubbed “the painter of harvesters.”

I present here my favourite among his works. It is an oil painting on canvas, 160 × 85.1 cm² (62¾ × 33½ in²). Although it certainly had an original title in French, it is known by the English one, “The Goose Girl of Mézy.” It shows a girl in rags gleaning for wheat after harvest, while she guards her flock of geese. The place of the painting is the village of Mézy-Moulins, neighbouring Lhermitte’s birthplace Mont-Saint-Père.

Léon Augustin Lhermitte - The Goose Girl of Mézy

Léon Augustin Lhermitte – The Goose Girl of Mézy (1892)

There is a slightly different rendering of this painting on the Art Renewal Center site (full-size image file here).

I found a contemporary imitation of this painting.

My next two posts in this series will deal with paintings by Jules Bastien-Lepage and George Clausen.

Nine years of Pigtails in Paint — a poetic celebration

Sam Hood - Nine girls in a Shirley Temple look-alike contest (1934)

Sam Hood – Nine girls in a Fox Films and Daily Telegraph Shirley Temple look-alike contest (1934)

Today we celebrate a a wondrous event: Pigtails in Paint is still alive and well after 9 years. The blog knew many tribulations. It was suppressed a first time by WordPress in September 2012, then a second time by Jaguar PC (its Internet service provider) in December 2016, under the false pretext of “child pornography.” More recently, the British police mounted a provocation against our new Internet service provider, first arresting him, then releasing him on bail and confiscating several of his computers. The pretext was the publication of images from the Ignatz Award-nominated comic Daddy’s Girl by Debbie Dreschler, a totally legal artwork, which they falsely claimed to be “child pornography.”

Ever since the Greek philosopher Socrates was sentenced to death for “corrupting youth,” bigots of all stripes have tried to suppress ideas, literature and art that they dislike under the accusation of “obscenity” or “harming youth.” But they will always be countered by enthusiastic supporters of beauty and freedom.

The above photograph, taken by Sam Hood on October 2, 1934, comes from the State Library of New South Wales. The 9 little girls, of various ages, who look very different from each other despite their attempt to resemble Shirley Temple, symbolise the variety of the blog’s topics, of its authors and readers.

Eric Stahlberg - Hilda Conkling (1920)

Eric Stahlberg – Hilda Conkling (1920)

To celebrate this 9th anniversary, I offer a poem by Hilda Conkling, from her second collection of verses, Shoes of the Wind. Her photograph comes from Poems by a Little Girl, her first collection.

by Hilda Conkling

Do you know how nine comes?
The fairies have numbers, all my ages,
Sharp on a piece of card-board:
They cut out and spirit out my number,
Nine . . .
They come to the window softly . . .
Then they give it life . . . open the window.
It flies in, it bumps me on the forehead,
But does not wake me:
Just before morning breaks it fades back into my brain
And is my age.

Source:: Hilda Conkling, Shoes of the Wind, A Book of Poems (1922), from the digitisation of the original edition on Internet Archive. This poem was published on Agapeta on October 16, 2016.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, the pinnacle of the realistic depiction of human form

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - Sur le rocher

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Sur le rocher (1872)

For a few years I have been astonished to find no article in Pigtails in Paint devoted to the paintings by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905), since most of them represent women and girls. The closest to it is the humorous piece “Bouguereau Remastered” by Pip, about contemporary works incorporating parts of paintings by Bouguereau in a totally different setting, usually with some satirical bent.

Although he is today not widely known by the large public, and he has been reviled by the modern art establishment throughout the 20th century, in his lifetime Bouguereau was considered as one of the greatest painters in the world. In his own country, France, he received many awards and official distinctions, and he presided over several academies and art salons; in the USA many millionaires eagerly bought his works.

He belongs to the tradition of classical academic art, later derisively called in France “art pompier,” which translates as “fireman art.” This term probably comes from the shiny metallic helmets with horse-hair tails worn by French firemen in the 19th century, which are similar to those worn by heroes of Graeco-Roman mythology and history in such paintings. It also evokes the adjectives “Pompeian” or “pompous.” It suggests unimaginative and conventional academic art showing repeatedly stereotyped allegorical, mythological or historical scenes, or glorifying the powerful (in particular the emperor Napoleon), following the tradition of the two great French classicist painters Jacques-Louis David and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - Les pommes

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Les pommes (1897)

Although Bouguereau’s early works followed academic conventions, he progressively developed his own lively personal style, with subjects looking like real persons, not a painting on a canvas. Look at the pictures in this article, the girls in them seem to be looking at you. In my view, his best works were made between 1870 and 1900, and indeed the eight paintings by him that I selected belong to that period.

Despite his reputation as one of the best painters ever, he was never satisfied with his work. He relentlessly pursued perfection and strove to endlessly correct and perfect his techniques and methods. He worked six days a week from six o’clock until nightfall, never stopping, even in old age. Although each painting took weeks to be completed, 828 paintings by him have been identified. For a detailed discussion of his techniques, see the article “Bouguereau at Work” by Mark Walker.

Bouguereau truly loved women, and many of his works depict women and girls, sometimes in a very sensuous manner, as in Nymphes et Satire, Naissance de Venus, La Vague, and La Perle. He also championed the integration of women in ateliers and official art courses, and helped open academies and salons to women painters.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - Enfant au bain

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Enfant au bain (1886)

William Bouguereau was born on November 30, 1825, in La Rochelle, a coastal town in the department of Charente Maritime, southwest of France. At the age of 12, he went to stay with his uncle Eugène Bouguereau, a priest who had just been given a church in the parish of Mortagne sur Gironde. As a surrogate father and mentor, Eugène encouraged William’s interest in classical culture. In 1839, Eugène decided to send his nephew to study the classics at the college of Pons, where William received drawing lessons from Louis Sage, a young professor who had been a pupil of Ingres and was a committed classicist. He became convinced that persistent hard work was necessary in order to gain mastery over technical problems.

In 1841, the Bouguereau family moved to Bordeaux. William’s father intended to end his studies, so that he would train for bookkeeping for the family business. But with the support of his mother and friends, William could convince his father to let him enroll at the Bordeaux municipal art school. He gained admission directly into the senior class taught by Jean-Paul Alaux, attending morning classes, then working. Nevertheless, he soon won the 1844 prize for “Best Historical Painting,” although he was competing against older students who were enrolled full-time. Then William obtained his father’s permission to go to Paris to enter the École des Beaux-Arts. To pay his costs, he spent three months in the region painting oil portraits of the notable personalities of Saintonge.

With a letter of recommendation from Alaux to the painter François-Édouard Picot, he joined the latter’s studio, where he worked like a slave. In April 1846, Bouguereau was barely admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts, ranking 99th out of the 100 admitted. In 1848 he was allowed to make submissions in the three preliminary stages of the competition for the famous “Grand Prix de Rome.” Unable to decide between the two best candidates, the members of the Académie awarded two second Grands Prix, one to Bouguereau and the other to Gustave Boulanger. The following year he again entered the competition, but his painting did not even get a mention while Boulanger received the first Grand Prix. Finally, in 1850, Bouguereau competed for the third time and won the Premier Grand Prix.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - Au pied de la falaise

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Au pied de la falaise (1886)

The prize allowed the winner to spend an all-expenses paid year to study in the Villa Medici in Rome, administered by the painter Jean Alaux. There Bouguereau met several older artists, and he was able to study the Italian old masters and also Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities. For his work assignments, he painted his first masterpieces.

He returned afterwards to Bordeaux, where he painted first a few family portraits, then left for La Rochelle to decorate the villa of wealthy relatives. At the end of 1854, he settled down in Paris, decorating rooms. The Salon of 1857 bestowed the Medal of Honour on Bouguereau. The Emperor Napoleon III then commissioned him to paint his portrait as well as one of the Empress. From that point on, Bouguereau became a young celebrity. In 1857, he began teaching students of his own.

In 1862, he totally altered his painting technique as he laboured relentlessly, looking for new approaches in the use of color. From the late 1860s forward his greatest body of work commenced, along with the style and subjects for which he is well known.

In 1872, Bouguereau secured a part-time teaching post at the Academy Julian, and in 1875, he became part of the permanent staff of that institution. In 1876, after twelve prior attempts, he was elected to the highest titular rank of the Institute’s Académie des Beaux-Arts. In 1881, the Société des Artistes Français was founded in order to manage the annual arts Salon; Bouguereau was elected the first president of the Painting section.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - La pêche aux grenouilles

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – La pêche aux grenouilles (1882)

In 1882, he bought a house in La Rochelle, where he spent his summers. In 1886, he attended a reception at the college in Pons as president of the alumni association; in the course of the festivities, he offered a self-portrait to his first professor Louis Sage and reminded him of the debt of gratitude he owed him.

Following a dispute with the painter Meissonier and his supporters over a detail in regulations, Bouguereau resigned as president of the Société des Artistes Français, but there was a split, and the breakaway Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts was founded, with its own Salon held at the Champ de Mars.

Bouguereau married twice. In 1856, William began living with one of his models, Nelly Monchablon, aged 19. Their liaison remained first secret, and the couple married on May 24, 1866. They had five children, but four of them died in William Bouguereau’s lifetime; only his eldest daughter Henriette outlived him. Nelly herself died on April 3, 1877. The grief from the death of his children inspired some of his his most beautiful religious works, such as Pieta and Vierge Consolatrice.

Among his pupils was Elizabeth Jane Gardner, an American expatriate. After the death of Nelly, he wanted to marry her, but his mother made him swear he would not remarry within her lifetime. They were secretly engaged in May 1879. Finally, after his mother’s death, he and Elizabeth married in Paris in June 1896. She worked as his private secretary, and as a painter herself, she had always strove to emulate William’s style.

Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau - Dans le jardin

Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau – Dans le jardin (1878)

By 1900, the loss of a fourth child, his 32-year-old son Paul, dealt a severe blow to his mind and body. Exhausted by years of hard work, heavy smoking, and excessive eating and drinking, he began to age very quickly. One can indeed see a decline in the quality of his paintings from that year.

In 1903, he was made a Grand Officer de la Légion d’Honneur, the highest French official distinction. He was invited to Rome to participate in the centenary of the Villa Medici, he made the trip with Elizabeth. By the end of that year, it proved too difficult for him to hold a pencil or a paintbrush and he found himself nearly unable to work. Sensing that the end was near, he left Paris in the middle of the night on July the 31st, 1905, to return to his beloved La Rochelle, where he died on August 19. He is buried with Nelly and his children at the family vault at Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris.

Although Bouguereau knew glory in his lifetime, he also had his adversaries in the world of art, mainly in the new schools of “modern art,” starting with impressionism. Edgar Degas invented the verb “bouguereauter” to designate the academic technique of licked finish to smooth the surface of a painting and make the brushstrokes invisible, a characteristic feature of Bouguereau’s painting. Indeed, the impressionists preferred a rougher result, with visible brushstrokes. The writer Joris-Karl Huysmans compared his painting to the “soft flesh of an octopus.” Paul Gauguin loathed Bouguereau and mocked him in his writings. His opponents included also one of his former pupils; according to the biography of William Bouguereau by Damien Bartoli with Fred Ross:

Some students, however, caused problems. The most famous of these was Matisse, who quickly dropped out of Bouguereau’s studio. From the start, the benevolent master tried to encourage Matisse, but soon threw up his hands in exasperation, noting the young man’s weaknesses, “You badly need to learn perspective,” he said to him, “But first, you need to know how to hold a pencil. You will never know how to draw.”

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - Jeune fille allant à la fontaine

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Jeune fille allant à la fontaine (1885)

After World War I and the rise of expressionism, Dadaism, cubism, then non-figurative painting or “abstract expressionism,” Bouguereau became reviled by art critics. He was accused of “mawkishness” and “lubricity,” of painting to satisfy the tastes of rich buyers, etc. He progressively got out of art manuals, except as a counter-example of what should not be done. His works were less and less exhibited, and he became largely unknown by the public.

According to Fred Ross, the businessman and art collector who founded the Art Renewal Center, Bouguereau’s works were selling for an average of $500 to $1500 in 1960. He himself owns 13 Bouguereau works, and he said that when he bought his first one in 1977 (for about $4,000), they could be purchased for $10,000. This rejection by the art market extended to much of 19th century classical painting. According to Dalya Alberge, in 1965 a painting by John William Waterhouse was sold by the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro to a private collector for £200 (about $300).

Since the 1980’s there has been a revival of interest in Bouguereau, exhibitions were organised, and in parallel, the prices of his works rose steadily. The highest known to date is that of La Charité, sold $3,520,000 at Christie’s in May 2000. This is nevertheless much lower than the prices of the 89 most expensive paintings (all above $60,000,000). This list clearly excludes classical painting, since in chronological order after a Rembrandt of 1634, the next one is by the American realist painter Thomas Eakins, dated 1875. Afterwards there are only works from the various schools of “modern art,” starting with impressionists and ending with non-figurative paintings and pop art; moreover, these make the overwhelming majority of the list.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - Petite fille au bouquet

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Petite fille au bouquet (1896)

One of the earliest 20th century defenders of Bouguereau was the Spanish painter Salvador Dali. In his 1956 pamphlet Les cocus du vieil art moderne (“The cuckolds of the old modern art”) published by Grasset & Fasquelles, the first chapter counter-poses modern ugliness, headed by Picasso, to Bouguereau.

Beside Stalinists, he identifies two types of “cuckolds” in art: the Dadaist who has wanted to assassinate painting, and the dithyrambic modern art critics, self-cocufying through the former, married to the old modern painting and forever cheated by it. Hating classicism, these critics became attracted by ugliness and found a new beauty in it. So, to keep attuned with critics, painters strove to make ugly works in order to be modern. Now “Picasso, who fears everything, was making ugly things for fear of Bouguereau.” An editor’s footnote relates that one day Picasso showed to a friend his latest work, a collage of newspaper pieces, and told his voiceless friend “This is maybe not sublime, but, anyway, it is no Bouguereau.” Dali adds that contrarily to others, Picasso made ugly things on purpose, cuckolding thus those dithyrambic critics.

But, as Picasso is an anarchist, after having half stabbed Bouguereau, he would give the puntilla, and dispatch modern art with one blow, by making uglier himself alone in a single day than all others gathered in several years.

Pablo Picasso - William Adolphe Bouguereau

Pablo Picasso – William Adolphe Bouguereau

(The puntilla is a knife with a short and wide blade, used to dispatch the bull in the corrida.) Indeed, Dali asserts that contrarily to many others, Picasso, like Raphael, knows where real beauty is. I also quote now from a telegram he sent to Picasso:

Thanks Pablo! Your latest ignominious paintings have killed modern art. Without you, with the taste and restraint that are the very virtues of French caution, we would have had ever uglier painting, for at least a hundred years, until one reached your sublime adfesios esperpentos. You, with all the violence of your Iberian anarchism, in a few weeks you reached the limits and last consequences of abomination.

(The expression adfesios esperpentos designates ugly and ridiculous characters, like scarecrows.) Finally, on a side panel, Dali makes the following prediction:

Within ten years, one will say that, as a painter, Picasso was not so good as that, and Bouguereau was not so bad as that.

Gamma-Keystone - Salvador Dali helping to load in a truck a copy of the painting Nymphs And Satyr by Bouguereau

Gamma-Keystone – Salvador Dali helping to load in a truck a copy of the painting Nymphs And Satyr by Bouguereau

I am usually not very fond of pronouncements by Dali, as they usually consist of a mixture of narcissism and purposeful extravagance, but here his words resonate with me. I don’t like any painting by Picasso, except his early realistic works, and to me, the so-called “abstract expressionism” of Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, or Barnett Newman, as well as a large part of the so-called “contemporary art” represents a repugnant antithesis to art.

It has been argued that “abstract art” is neither abstract nor art. The word “abstraction” refers first to extracting key features and relations from a concrete situation, discarding others. If also means abstract concepts that can represent many different concrete instances, as in mathematics. But “abstract expressionism” does not represent any idea or reality, even in a symbolic form, it is just meaningless. Jackson Pollock creates his paintings by just randomly dribbling, spraying and splashing paint on a canvas.

Moreover, the word “art” usually implies skill and craftsmanship. But no skills are necessary here. The post “The Blind Art Collector” by Ron presents a 4-year-old girl named Marla Olmstead who spontaneously paints in the “abstract expressionist” style. It has also a link to a 2014 YouTube video devoted to Aelita Andre, a girl who at age 5, without any formal training, painted in the manner of Jackson Pollock, her works selling for thousands of dollars; in it, she called her style “abstract,” and she made a live painting performance in front of an audience of 20,000. She has her own official YouTube channel and website, in which a former director of an academy is quoted saying “Aelita Andre is Modern Art.”

To me, this does not represent real child prodigies—although these girls have a gift—but the infantilisation of art. No child, even with intensive training, ever painted like Rembrandt at age 5. In fact, such an art does not even require a human being to be created, indeed great apes have painted in the “abstract expressionist” style: the chimpanzee Congo, and orangutans in several zoos, in particular the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the New Mexico BioPark Society, where several other animal species, in particular gorillas, created “abstract” art. Primate art is sold at charities in order to raise funds for wildlife conservation projects.

Non-figurative painting has inspired several hoaxes. The most famous one is the 1910 painting Et le soleil s’endormit sur l’Adriatique (“And the sun fell asleep over the Adriatic sea”) attributed to an unknown artist named Joachim-Raphaël Boronali. In fact, it had been made by attaching a paintbrush to the tail of an ass named Lolo, and Boronali is an anagram of Aliboron, the ass in a poem by Jean de La Fontaine. In February 1964, four paintings by a previously unknown avant-garde French artist named Pierre Brassau were exhibited at an art show in Göteborg, Sweden. Many critics praised them, but they were in fact the works of a chimpanzee named Peter from Sweden’s Boras zoo.

It is time to forget caricatures of art and to return to the two ideals revered by Bouguereau: truth and beauty. And as his life shows, achieving them requires discipline and hard work.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - Une petite fille

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Une petite fille (1886)

Note on the sources: I downloaded from the website of the Art Renewal Center the painting by Elizabeth Gardner and the first two by William Bouguereau. Saving images there at their original size (1000 pixels in the highest dimension) requires careful use of Firefox tools. High-definition images are available to subscribers. Generally, their images have a soft aspect, which reminds of the technique of glazing. All other Bouguereau images used here come from The Athenaeum. In that site, they are generally larger, with bright colours and a vivid contrast. Many images are also available on WikiArt, but the references given there are not always accurate. Bouguereau’s paintings are often given titles in English, but the French title of many of them can be found on the French Wikipedia.

For the artist’s life, I followed mainly the article “Biography of William Bouguereau” by Damien Bartoli with Fred Ross. Complementary information was found in the English and French Wikipedia pages on Bouguereau.

Readers interested in Bouguereau’s technique may consult the article “Bouguereau at Work” by Mark Walker. I did not use it.

For Dali’s pamphlet, I used the 2013 reprint by Grasset. All quotes by him were in French, I translated them into English myself. The drawing from Picasso was downloaded from artnet.

Jules Pascin

Jules Pascin - Seated little girl

Jules Pascin – Seated little girl (1911)

This Bulgarian-born French artist is known today for his paintings, mostly portraits of women, and his erotic drawings; but he also practised caricature and illustrated books. His style varied, from fauvism to expressionism, with a very short attempt at cubism, and ended in soft pearly compositions suiting the tastes of art dealers.

Pascin (to be pronounced phonetically, Paskinn) loved women, all women, from young nymphets to worn-out prostitutes, and they feature prominently in his works. His art mixed with his sex life, indeed he got the nickname “the Caliph” and was reputed to have 367 models: his wife Hermine, his mistress Lucy, as well as one concubine for each day of the year. He was also called “prince des trois monts” (prince of the three mounts) in reference to the two locations Montparnasse and Montmartre in Paris, then to Mont de Vénus (mons Veneris).

Jules Pascin - Little Italian girl (1909)

Jules Pascin – Little Italian girl (1909)

Although he earned a lot of money from his paintings and caricatures, he was always in a hurry to spend it, holding feasts, paying for drinks all round in bars, and also helping friends in need. He loved the nightlife in slums, befriending the underworld, but also getting involved in brawls.

He was born on March 31, 1885, in Vidin, Bulgaria, and named Julius Mordecai Pincas. His parents, Sofie and Marcus Pincas, were Sephardic Jews. His father, a rich grain trader, behaved as a household tyrant, terrorising his family and abusing his servants, whipping and even raping maids. The young Julius found solace in drawing, and soon got his lasting interest for the female body in Turkish baths, but also by trading to a maid one of his drawings for a view under her skirts. He finally fled from home.

At age 16, he got his first mistress, Fanoriatal, twice his age. She headed a luxury brothel in Bucharest, and her sex workers became his models. From this time comes his frequent practice of drawing brothel scenes and sex orgies. Below is a drawing with a young girl being presented to a procuress for a job in a brothel.

Jules Pascin - Presentation

Jules Pascin – Presentation (1912)

Julius started to draw caricatures, many of them with an explicit sexual content, for Simplicissimus, a satirical magazine published in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, a province that wanted to distinguish itself from stern Prussia. They immediately got a big success, and this activity would bring him a lot of money for the rest of his life. In March 1905, he went to Munich. Disapproving of his work, his father forbade him to use the name Pincas. So he chose the anagram Pascin (pronounced Paskinn). After all, his grandfather had changed the family name from Pinas to Pincas. Although one generally refers to him as Jules Pascin, he signed his works “pascin” with a lowercase “p” and without a first name.

On Christmas Eve 1905, he arrived in Paris. His fame had preceded him, so he was welcomed by a delegation of artists and personalities. In September 1907 he met Hermine David, a young painter, it was love at first sight, and they would remain together for the rest of his life; and she would tolerate his endless sexual adventures.

Jules Pascin - Young girl in red

Jules Pascin – Young girl in red (1911-1912)

Encouraged by Hermine, he started painting himself, with bright colours in the manner of Fauvism. He also continued his erotic drawings, much appreciated by the Bavarians, taking inspiration from his own nightlife. The sharp lines of caricature gave way to smoother ones, free and elegant.

In 1909 he met the 18-year-old Cécile Vidil, who had left home. She changed her first name to Lucy. A beautiful woman, she became a model for artists at the Matisse Academy. The Norwegian painter Per Krohg was there; he fell in love and they would eventually marry and have a son, the artist Guy Krohg. She also sat for Pascin, and probably had an affair with him at that time. She would later become his mistress, while being still married to Krohg.

Jules Pascin - Young model

Jules Pascin – Young model (1912-1913)

In June 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I, fearing that he would have to serve in the Bulgarian army on the side of Germany, he left for London (via Brussels). In October, he crossed the Atlantic and arrived in New York City, without Hermine, who feared long journeys across the ocean. Although living in the Jewish neighbourhood of Brooklyn, he preferred Harlem, the Black neighbourhood, its free lifestyle suiting him better. Hermine joined him six months later. They travelled a lot, visiting the South. From Florida, Pascin headed to Cuba, but without Hermine. Throughout this period, he made many drawings of street scenes, families, or even landscapes.

Jules Pascin - Little girl with cat

Jules Pascin – Little girl with cat (portrait of Ruth Wood-Gaylor) (1917)

Through their mutual influence, their painting and drawing styles were getting ever closer. So Pascin and Hermine made a moral contract, to which they would abide scrupulously: Hermine would make landscapes, and Pascin the human figure. They married on September 25, 1918, in New York City, probably to please Hermine. He obtained US citizenship on September 20, 1918.

They returned then to France. Pascin fell in love with Lucy, who was still with Krohg and had a son from him. She became his mistress, and soon quite openly. They loved each other until his death. He was practically bigamous, and his two partners, Hermine and Lucy, became friends.

Jules Pascin - Little girl with a hat

Jules Pascin – Little girl with a hat (1924)

Throughout the 1920s, Pascin travelled in various countries, sometimes with Lucy. Otherwise he lived in Paris in his paint workshop, which was never furnished properly as a home. A Martinican woman, Julie Luce, settled with her daughter Simone at his place. She would serve as model, nurse and household keeper for the painter, and she would even be the one able to calm him during his violent fits after binge drinking: “Tu nous fait chier, Pascin! Maintenant va dormir.” (You make us shit, Pascin! Now go to sleep.)

He disliked luxury women, he often chose street girls or young dancers as models, and paid them well. And there was always food and drink available for them. Sometimes models would stay in the evening for a feast. Although he sold his paintings at a high price, they always found buyers in a short time, and often collectors would come at his place to find that nothing was available.

Jules Pascin - Young girl with a doll

Jules Pascin – Young girl with a doll (1924-1926)

His nights were often spent in feasts, at his place, in restaurants or cabarets, sometimes involving 200 guests. Every Friday, he would lock himself in his workshop to make a painting to the taste of art dealers, which would sell at a high price. So on Saturday he would spend the money earned in this way.

Jules Pascin - Little girl with a bouquet

Jules Pascin – Little girl with a bouquet (1925)

Throughout his career, his style had evolved from the harsh lines of the caricatures of the Bavarian period to soft compositions with fancy colours. They became ever more nacreous and misty, in a style that suited his rich patrons. Under contract with the Bernheim-Jeune brothers, paid to paint what they liked, he increasingly felt that he was always doing the same type of picture. He felt disgusted with himself, like a procurer of painting, paid to sell women who sat for him. This was far from the ambitions of his youth.

Jules Pascin - The little actress

Jules Pascin – The little actress (1927)

His body worn out by his continuous excesses, his spirit weakened by the trials of life and love, and having the feeling of being sold out as an artist, on the second night of June 1930 he slit both his wrists, wrote with his blood a farewell to Lucy on the wall, and as death was not coming fast enough, he hung himself to the latch of his door. Lucy found his body three days later. She always blamed herself for not having been there on the eve of his suicide, as she might have prevented it.

In his will, Pascin had bequeathed all his property to Hermine and Lucy, equally. On the morning of June 7, a procession of one thousand marchers accompanied his coffin through the streets of Montmartre, towards the cemetery of Saint-Ouen. At the head were Lucy, accompanied by Per Krohg, followed by Julie Luce and Simone comforting Hermine. Then all his friends, artists, writers and publishers, art traders, dozens of models, bar and restaurant managers, and the little people of slums. At the end was a neat old tramp, sent as delegate by the beggars of Boulevard de Clichy.

Jules Pascin - Little girl in a white shirt

Jules Pascin – Little girl in a white shirt (1929)

Lucy’s marriage with Krohg was dissolved in 1934. Hermine and Lucy never married again, keeping the memory of Pascin. The writer Pierre Mac Orlan summarised Pascin’s personality by the words:

The freest man in the world who belonged to this world only through imaginary links.

(In French: “L’homme le plus libre du monde qui n’appartenait à ce monde que par des liens imaginaires.”)

Jules Pascin - Female

attributed to Jules Pascin – Female

Sources: My article is mainly based on the following book:

Alexandre Dupouy, Pascin, Parkstone International Press, New York (2014).

I completed it with details from the French and English Wikipedia pages.

All above images, except the last one, come from The Athenaeum. Of all art sites, this one gives the greatest number of works by Pascin, and in the highest quality.

The last image above comes from a site trading imitations of known paintings by contemporary Chinese artists. I have not found in any reputable art site a confirmation of the authorship of this painting by Pascin.

I end by including an image from Wikimedia Commons, which gives an unusual example of the portrayal of nude women by Pascin:

Jules Pascin

Jules Pascin – Dolls (1910)