Grisaille

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Grisaille

From Virgil Elliott

Published before 2005


Graydon,

The technique I described was specific to Bouguereau's handling of light-complected youthful flesh only, and then only in his later paintings. However, there is a scumble over the sky in The Broken Pitcher, indicating atmospheric haze of an overcast day, the light he preferred most frequently. In all other respects, his methods were fairly straightforward, but it's obvious he understood scumbling, and employed it with the utmost mastery where its effect was desired. I have not seen it done better by anyone, ever.

He wasn't a writer. He said what he had to say most eloquently in paint. His notes are just notes, most likely written for his own benefit in the planning of his pictures, rather than with the idea in mind of producing a treatise on painting.

Interesting that you owned Bouguereau's Pieta. It was displayed in San Francisco for a while, and might still be there, on loan from somewhere or other. I visit the Legion of Honor museum whenever I go to San Francisco, if I have time. There are really only a few paintings there that make it worth going to see, for me: the Bouguereau(s), the Rembrandt and the Gérôme chief among them.

Virgil