Expires in 5 months
23 October 2021
Up until a few days ago, I was unsure of the name of William-Adolphe-Bouguereau and, actually, I have trouble articulating his name accurately.
My encounter with Bourgereau started with a sense of skepticism after reading some of the information available from the web. With the name's high-pitched sound and the date of his works, I immediately thought of a boring painter and a unprofessional French academic, one of those who paint expensive portraits of nobles and hunter events. Something from the other century, in short, old and dated.
But I was too quick to judge I slipped up.
I quickly learned my lesson, and it didn't take me long to fall in love with the art of Bouguereau discovered through Open Art Images.
Before I tell you about these beautiful things, I will reveal the crucial lesson I have learned, that is what inspires the desire for me to blog about art, without being an art academic: art should be looked at and felt by emotions it creates on our bodies. The senses and instincts are the best guide to know if an artist has able to get into us. I had no idea of the name Bouguereau, and if I hadn't, it would have been the same, because his work captivated me as they touched the most ancient archetypes of my soul and challenged all I believed I knew about art in academia.
That's what art does, it sends us information that is not conscious that takes us back to parallel and past worlds and allows us to step for a brief moment in the mind of someone else, who in turn is able to enter ours, without knowing us. We and him, two people distant in time and space and space, share the same space for a short time. Our worlds intersect and merge in the territory made by a piece of art.
Bouguereau is the one who was abused by modernists
My error was committed by many others before me in the same way, by those who in the midst of modernism and after a long and acknowledged career, decided that Bouguereau wasn't sufficient to be considered contemporary enough and ready for the future or "cool" enough and, in a matter of minutes, relegated him to a simple academic artist, one of those who were Art Pompier (an expression that indicates the mastery of a technique, however it is often empty and false to the point of having bad taste) and devoid of any creativity.
Bouguereau, the one of the Pieta.
The error is not more significant. It's enough to look to the painting of Pieta to comprehend it, and feel the sensation that goes to the bowels. The Bouguereau's Pieta conveys a universal message that is universal in the sense that Christ is the symbol of the suffering of the world and the Madonna, a black and esoteric woman is the symbol of reality, of Justice and conscience simultaneously and throws into our faces the truths, uncomfortable and obscure, about the ugly that we all share. The dark and black Mary is surrounded and almost imprisoned by guilt, represented by those good-natured characters, with a somewhat dramatic appearance that surround the dead corpse of Christ. The lady, who is regal and angry, really desperate, appears to be a gypsy, a refugee who holds her son's body in her arms beneath the wreckage of the bombings. It is an image from the war photographer, but we find that image on the walls of an academic of the 19th century who, without much aplomb is smacking us on the face.
Pieta Pieta is nothing more than the second chapter (the one that is fun and the final), of a story about a woman called Mary however, it could be a different one. This story begins with the drawing The Madonna of the Roses and where Mary appears as a girl and a mother of a child, round and white. She doesn't look us in the eye, but instead looks upwards, towards the sky, like someone seeking help in the direction of God or fate, aware of the daunting task she has just begun. This task is carried within her arms. and she holds a small Jesus and from his gaze (he is, and he looks at us) we see the importance of fate. She wraps him around in a maternal pose, one that is functional poses, not emotional. The two of them, sitting in front of us, ask for compassion. In the Pieta, that embrace becomes an embrace that of the mother who cannot bear the weight of her son's death, while life slips away. This feeling was very familiar to Bouguereau who had lost three of his children and his wife. In the painting, while Bouguereau expresses his complete dismay, Mary declares her defeat or, more accurately, the defeat of the world. Her prayers to heaven, her doubts dictated by her realization of her mission, shatter into an absolute certainty. The dark eyes of her, the hollowed out skin, look at the perpetrators directly in the face, while the hope of humanity slips into the certainty that evil is present and we are the ones responsible.
william adolphe bouguereau of the Academy
As I said the biggest error made by modernists was to overlook the expressive power of the painting by Bouguereau. Certain, everything in his style is academic: from the flawless technicalities which he creates naked body as well as the religious and mythological themes taken from neoclassicism, from the naturalistic backgrounds , to romantic and bucolic subjects. But Bouguereau is not just that, and it's enough to keep looking at the faces of the characters in his artworks, where all the human emotion he's capable of capturing and transferring on the canvas is manifested. His contemporaries recognized this and made Bouguereau one of the most famous artists of the 1800s. But then, with the advent of the new century his work was banned by the Damnatio Memoriae banned him. They accused him of not being bold, but perhaps they had not realized that, beneath the technical structure of his artworks, Bouguereau hid chaos, malice, pain and seduction.
His work is the ideal example of the bourgeoisie: stunning forms that conceal disturbing dark secrets, dark and desires are no longer his desire to repress. The naked is one of his methods to return us to our primal instincts and desire to lure us in and their brightness lets us feel like we're in a dream as well as in the setting of a film, in which the actors are brightly lit and are able to entice us. The simplest gestures become sublime (like taking off a sock, for instance); bodies stack up and pile up, they touch and search the other, it's an act of foreplay and Bouguereau is a tightrope walker poised between an education of bourgeois that is looked (and is at and is looked) at as well as the need to speak to the human need for material. Both are present and it's the observer who decides to see one rather than the other.
It was another great artist, equally expressive, sensual, with a dreamlike quality as Bouguereau who, in the 1950s, saved him from oblivion and wrote about his achievements: Salvador Dali. He too, so attached to the bourgeois formula, knew the secrets contained in the human unconscious and that you don't necessarily have to make a choice between content and form, however, you could fool the viewers with surrealist magic tricks.
Bouguereau, the person who can determine the appropriate doses
Bouguereau's secret is in the proper balance of sacred and profane, pure and sensuality, malice as well as innocence. Even if you think you're seeing the typical shepherds, the usual Venus and angels, Bouguereau surpasses all stereotypes or commonplace in art. A girl defends herself from Eros and that irritable putto is a symbol of the desire and desires that she isn't willing to be able to satisfy. A shepherdess possesses the look of an old woman, a bearer of the wisdom of the common and rural that has been cultivated by those who have lived the way of life through experience and a little suffering. The Nymph who does not conceal, but rather makes absolutely evident, with a single glance, the attraction she feels towards Satyr. Satyr. The homosexual passion carefully positioned in Dante's slums. There are a lot of young mothers who are overwhelmed by having to take the care of their children within a world that does not recognize them, and in which they are viewed as only functional personalities. The power of the expressions that his characters give us back and those that they exchange with each other is enormous. They resemble photographs or film footage, and politely reveal the real life stories. This is realist art, stuffed into mythical and dreamlike scenes This can be the universe in its complexity.
Bouguereau, the one who paints using human archetypes
I believe that Bouguereau is quite knowledgeable about archetypes of humans as well as social patterns and many identities of the person. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that he was a member of some esoteric school. Some of his images catapulted me right into the surrealist world of Jodorosky, where the nude is a fundamental human characteristic, where vices and virtues are exclaimed with a loud voice, in which the unconscious sprang out and is portrayed.
These are just a few of the things that I can see in Bouguereau's painting, and if you don't believe me observe the eyes of his characters. They are the mirror of the souls of the world. In my vision in 2021 I see in him great awareness of the truths of life, a sense of intellectual responsibility, a desire to unmask social taboos. He does this in the most simple and "formal" ways, with the language of his day and without pretense or snobbery with no pretension or judgement, and above all without violence, so much so that, at this point in the text as well as in the history of humanity, it's the modernists who appear outdated to me.