William Bouguereau - Cold?

Home / Education / ARChives / Foundational Discussions

William Bouguereau - Cold?

From Juan Carlos Martinez

Published before 2005


Patrick,

If I may ... part of what you are observing is the difference between Classicism and impressionism, or Naturalism, as well as between imaginative painting and portraits (again, Naturalism). It’s obviously not to your tastes, but in paintings aspiring to Classicism, the emotional representation is downplayed to something more idealised (I’m not talking about the melodrama or histrionics of Neoclassicism here, by the way, which are not downplayed at all). In terms of the emotional response of the viewer, again, a classically oriented painting is likely to invoke a more mellow, subtle, or contemplative response than a more naturalistic painting might.

Whether they are to your tastes, Bouguereau’s paintings are more powerful in reality than they could ever be in a reproduction simply because of their scale, as Fred pointed out. The kind of impact which they have, which is (usually) emotionally subtle, is indeed magnified when seeing the real painting. It is also most difficult to get past the perfection of his drawing when we see the paintings as a whole in reproduction. In person, you see the painting as a painting.

I don’t know if this sheds any light or not, or gives food for thought, at least.

Best.
Juan