Sunday, 27 February 2011

Bouguereau's Nympha and Satyr.

Just a quick post to show some love for William Bouguereau, and admiration, in particular, for his painting Nymphs and Satyr (1873). Apropos of nothing in particular, except I was put in mind of it discussing the perfect female figure with a learned associate. It's indeed a beguiling, joyous, luminous picture. By all accounts the original has the power to stop people in their tracks, a power that clearly transcends its subject matter. My friend happens to be a surgeon, well placed to comment on the nigh-miraculous anatomical perfection of the figures in Bouguereau's paintings. He also commented on the light that is in the painting. As a humble artist slowly achieving incremental technical improvements, I can only hold this up as a gage by which to measure awesomeness, and a distant goal to aspire to. It shows what human hands are capable of creating.

Subject matter wise the image is somewhat echoed by J. W. Waterhouse's Hylas and the Nymphs (1896), though obviously Bouguereau's piece is more lively (despite being more finely rendered). Waterhouse introduced a wistful, intense, slightly sombre tone (common to many of his works). The way one of the females grip's the solitary male figure's arm is very similar in both these paintings. Waterhouse's hero is being lured to his doom; there is nothing, meanwhile, to suggest that anything more untoward than a dunking awaits Bouguereau's satyr. Fortunately his female companions are nymphs of the wood rather than the water, and they are more interested in teasing than entrapping.

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