Grisaille

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Grisaille

From Graydon Parrish

Published before 2005


I am not saying that Bouguereau didn't understand the beauty of optical greys. Indeed he did. I was saying that his technique grew out of an established approach to painting where each subsequent layer of paint improves and refines the one before it. Colors get adjusted and the values, rounded... Bouguereau is about subtlety. Bouguereau leaves areas that work or are less important; he completes area that need adjusting or are central to the composition. Le Travaille Interrompu is in Amherst and there are highly finished areas and ones where the ebauche is visible. One would think if he indeed painted areas more chromatically, in a deliberate way, that these areas would evince it. (Unfinished Piazzetta paintings are like this.... with areas in various stages: white underpainting on read, scumbled blue sky...) Yet to my eye, this Bouguereau looks like the standard color rub in. We may just be having one of those communication problems that are so common on the internet. Moreover, our training is different and probably our terms as well. For example, frottis means to rub and is a technique of paint handling. Ebauche, is a stage of painting, the first one, in color or monochrome. Others use wash-in, rub-in, underpainting for any approach, and interchange the words sketch and study consistently.

Understand, though, I am not orthodox in my approach to technique. If you have found a truth about color and painting, and I am certain you have, then I am all for it. I have had a lot of experience with Bouguereau as well. He's my favorite. I even had the pleasure of owning his Pieta for a while. Since I read French, when I did have his notes from Mark Walker, I studied them. There was nothing indicating your observations. But perhaps Boug didn't write them down. Why should he? However there were drawings indicating the colors he was planning. Most were simple: grey-green; red-grey; grey-pink. No notes on chroma, value or specific colors like ochre or ultramarine.