DescriptionWILLIAM ADOLPHE BOUGUEREAU (French, 1825-1905)
Fishing For Frogs, 1882
Oil on canvas
54 x 42 inches (137.2 x 106.7 cm)
Signed and dated and lower right: W. Bouguereau 1882
Luckett Collection, Westchester, New York;
"The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, William Bouguereau 1825-1905" 22 June-23 September 1984, illustrated fig 101;
William Bouguereau Catalogue Raisonné of His Painted Works, prepared by Damien Bartoli with the assistance of Fred C. Ross, page 214, plate 159.
This work is housed in an original period frame from The Biltmore Estate.
Arguably the most influential French academic painter, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, an exhibitor at the Paris Salon and instructor at the Académie Julian for decades, applied classical compositional tenets to his portraits and mythological, religious, and genre paintings. Born in La Rochelle into a family of wine and oil merchants, he first learned classical and Biblical stories from his uncle, a Roman Catholic priest who arranged for him to paint portraits of parishioners; with earnings from these commissions, Bouguereau was able to enroll at the Paris École des Beaux-Arts in the studio of François-Édouard Picot. His mastery here of the academic style, which emphasized idealized forms and historical and mythological subjects, ensured his winning of the coveted Prix de Rome in 1850 with Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes.
Employing traditional painting methods, including detailed pencil studies and oil sketches, Bouguereau became a master renderer of the human form. His portraits of women were considered particularly charming because they beautified the sitter while simultaneously retaining her likeness. Likewise, his mythological and genre paintings, in coupling photo-realistic detail with idealized subjects, appealed to wealthy art patrons. Bouguereau was also an exceptional genre painter of tender mothers and children and of young girls. Most of his genre paintings were executed in his La Rochelle studio and adjoining garden. Fishing for Frogs, for example, exemplifies his sentimental portraits of peasant children, this one especially noteworthy with two figures; realistic passages, like the crumbling wall and the torn pinafore, balance the idealization of the girls' beauty and their close affection.
Always unpretentious, Bouguereau became one of the most decorated artists of the 19th century, receiving medals from the Paris Salons and the Expositions Universelles and successive ranks in the Légion d'honneur. In addition, he was the leading member of the Institute of France and the president of the Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers. In 1896, at the age of 71, Bouguereau achieved another "honor": he married one of his students, Elizabeth Gardner, whose paintings showed the strong influence of her teacher. They continued to maintain a workshop and residence at rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, #75.
While Bouguereau's academic works fell out of favor during the early 20th century as modernism held center stage, by the 1970s and '80s, they had regained popularity thanks to major exhibitions in New York, Montreal, and Paris. Critics now praised Bouguereau for having remained true to his academic roots and dominated the traditional salons and academies of the Third Republic. In particular, his paintings became immensely popular in the United States, as evidenced by their representation in numerous important public and private collections.
Museums (partial list of the around 100) with Bouguereau's paintings include the Musée du Louvre, Paris; Musée d'Orsay, Paris; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.
Examination Report: The canvas is lined. There appear to be scattered areas of inpaint in the background of the upper one-third of the composition. There appears to be an approximately 22" vertical line of restoration beginning above the right arm of the girl on the left, descending into the left half of the ledge on which the figures sit. There appear to be a number of scattered tiny touches of inpaint in the face of the girl on the left: around the perimeter of her face, tiny touches in her eyes, lips, ears and in her hair and headband. There appear to be more minimal tiny touches of inpaint in the face of the girl on the right, as well as in her neck, collarbone, right arm and hand. There are several linear areas and spots of inpaint along the extreme right edge, as well as reinforcement of the plants in lower left corner.
Treatment Report: The painting was cleaned with an appropriate solvent system: The uppermost layers old degraded varnish was removed with a mixture of acetone and mineral spirits. A gelled preparation of DMF, in conjunction with toluene, was utilized to swell and remove the excessive over paint to the tear. In several areas along the tear, there were alternating layers of fill and over-paint. These previous restorations were isolated from the original paint layer leaving the original glazes in tact The glue lining was reversed and the clean tear was properly repaired prior to relining. 1. The area along the tear was faced locally, to protect it during the removal of the lining fabric. 2. The canvas was taken off its stretcher and the lining was removed mechanically. 3. The area on the reverse was rinsed with acetone. 4. The facing was removed and the gesso fills were removed from the tear. The original canvas along the tear was intact. 5. The tear was repaired using original yarns with a PVA adhesive. 6. It should be noted that when the painting was previously lined, the sight size of the painting was extended approximately 1" in each direction. This was confirmed by examination of the reverse of the canvas, where original tacking holes were visible within the perimeter of the painting. It was decided to return the sight size to the original but leave some of the extensions, which would be hidden beneath the rabbet of the frame. The painting was lined: The painting was vapor treated on the vacuum table to reduce surface distortions. The painting was lined to a polyester and fine Belgian linen, incorporating a Mylar interleaf. A combination of the adhesives Beva 371 and D-8 was utilized. The painting was stretched on a new heavyweight custom-built stretcher with three crossbars. The original glazes were not disturbed by the previous restoration; all losses were filled and properly in-painted. Losses were filled with an acrylic gesso to match the adjacent original areas. The first stage of in-painting was executed in watercolors. Several passages around the tear, especially in the green background, needed to be built up to match the original texture. The second stage of in-painting incorporated pure, artists dry pigments dispersed in a PVA-AYAB medium and when necessary isolated with B-67. Separate coats of PVA and B-67 were used to isolate the restoration, and the painting received two coats of damar. The edges of the painting were taped, and a protective foam core backing was affixed to the reverse of the stretcher. All accompanying labels were encapsulated and attached. Framed Dimensions 75 X 64 Inches
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