Saturday, November 7, 2009
Searching for "Irene"
"Irene" is yet another of Adolf William Bouguereau's stunning works. Oil on canvas, 1897 18 x 15 inches (46 x 38.1 cm) You can find a high resolution photo, and even order a quality print, at the Art Renewal Center (ARC) here http://www.artrenewal.org/asp/database/image.asp?id=4857&hires=1
I discovered it in the Masters in Oil (MIO) October thread on WetCanvas. They post a new masterwork each month for the members to copy. I've tried to copy a Bouguereau painting once before, so I am aware that it's pretty much folly. It would take a lifetime of study to even begin to understand how one manages to capture such subtly and light. But I also know there's nothing quite as eye opening as attempting to copy a masterwork. It's a time honored assignment for art students. So, with that in mind, I did the sketch and first block in the first two evenings.
I spent a little time trying to do a preliminary sketch in pencil on the linen canvas. I don't usually do that, preferring to sketch directly with the brush. I though I'd use the pencil to make a more careful start, but not sure it made a real difference. How did he ever get those exquisite features...and that bump in the nose????
The next evening, using primarily Burnt Sienna, white and a purple (all Utrecht brand oils) I blocked in the painting pretty quickly. I wasn't going for a traditional underpainting although I had considered that before starting. This was just a quick 'laying in" with a limited pallette. After finishing the block in I realized that I have the head shifted to the right relative to the original. (The canvas I am painting on is smaller but proportionally correct to the original size (the blue tape marks the lower boundary of the proportionally correct area). I considered wiping it out, but after thinking about it overnight, I decided to push on as is. It isn't really critical...the real challenge is the face....that's what I really need to worrying about. So here are my first two steps in trying to capture another of Mr. Bouguereau's incredible paintings. Talk about attempting the impossible!
During the next two session, I contined bringing out the face and neck areas using glazing and scumbling and finger wiping and whatever else I could think of. How in the world did Bouguereau get those incredible flesh tones and subtle transitions??
And here's the original painting once more. It helps to be reminded of how far there is to go!