Thursday, January 8, 2009

William Adolph Bouguereau

One night in college I sat on my bed under a poster of Satyr and the Nymphs by William Bouguereau and experienced the magic. For the rest of my life I wont forget what it was like to watch that poster come to life. Nymphs began to circle that horned sheep man, Satyr, in a dance of twirling nudity. The murky water they pulled him into, the light shining on their skin, him pulling back on hooved feet, vulnerable and weak against the mob. The whole scene began to move in the most delightful way.
I was an art history major and wrote my final paper on the 1873 painting. Most of the other young women in my class chose female, contemporary, or local artists. The few men in my class chose Chagall and Picasso. I had chosen what seemed to be a sell-out, old-school academic who would have railed against the artists my classmates had chosen. I second guessed myself. These finals included oral reports. I compared my work to others and felt embarrassed and alone.
I've grown to realize how worthy of appreciation he is. There are few artists who compare to Bougeureau's precision. It's no mystery I was so impressed. I loved the print the first time I saw it, and I love it still. Recently walking through the Portland Art Museum I stopped to admire Nature's Fan, our piece of the week. It is stunning. It takes me to a wooded forest with a fat baby and his young mother.
I transport, as I had so long ago, in another state of mind, in another place and time.

1 comment:

Abrahim Nadimi said...

Bouguereau's work is amazing. Love your article and the work you are doing on this blog. I love his painting that you have shown here. I stopped at it for a while when I saw it at the Portland Art Museum. The thing that strikes me the most is that the woman isn't laughing... but isn't she tickling the child?