Returning to Bouguereau

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Returning to Bouguereau

From Fred Ross

Published before 2005


Brian Shapiro wrote in a letter to GoodArt dated July 31, 2003:

Just to note, I don't think that the element of romantic love that drew women into art and the idealization of women in the Victorian era are innocuously coicidental. Women were representations of the objects of Love, the Other, the irrational or subjective element, which was then summed up in the Romantic idea of Beauty.

And Fred Ross, ARC Chairman, responded on August 1:

Brian, I think Bouguereau opening up the Academy Julien in the late 1870’s and finally the Academy Français yielding to his protestations in the early 90s, had more than a little to do with women being attracted to the arts. The symbolic power of that action was like a tonic attracting women by the scores ... women who were talented and ambitious, but who until that time could but feel that there would be no future for their talents and no official venues by which to be discovered, develop their skills, and hopefully be recognized and successful. Oh how the modernists have suppressed this fact, so that even most of the “teachers” even the MAs and Phds in Art history and art education are surprised to hear this.

Just maybe it was a tad more important than being taught that Matisse was kicked out of WB’s studio because he couldn’t hold a pencil (forgetting that was a lie: Matisse quit due to the workload, and not particularly liking the criticism about his work).

The elevation of humanity and human feelings, emotions, fantasies and dreams, was a tangible outgrowth of Enlightenment thought, and the valuing of democracy and human rights, which led both men and women to a medium by which those things could be expressed. Romantic love and the Romantic ideal of Beauty, were but one manifestation and one genre of subject matter, atmosphere, mood and feeling that became popular to express. Far from being silly, maudlin, soppy and inane, it was a way of recognizing, codifying, analyzing and comprehending thoughts and ideas hitherto not considered fitting for the canvas or the artist.

For God's sake, take a look at what is being called maudlin or soppy:

Kindness to strangers, motherhood, childhood, working together, having empathy for our fellow man, charity in our hearts and with our purse, health, dreams and playfulness. To expose the scourge of war and disease, poverty and self abuse, corruption and indifference ... but always with the message to cure them.

The artists and writers of the day were amongst the leaders of a new humanism that lead directly to changes in societal norms and new laws and agencies of government to aid the poor, homeless, women and children, consumers, workers and an appreciation and celebrity of our culture, our civilization and our achievements both socially and technologically.

The modernists are but the tip of the movement to disawow all of the above, and to proclaim the ugliness and fraud in all around us. Nothing has value or meaning, and only those who destroy are praised.

Well it's 2:00 AM ... goodnight all.

- Fred