The Longest Now

Bouguereau remembered
Saturday July 07th 2007, 7:53 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,Uncategorized

Today I stumbled across a luminescent painting, thanks to the fine taste of a fellow Wikipedian whose writing is so intimate and full of poetry that, despite never having corresponded, I imagine them an acquaintance. It was a portrait of a knitter, entitled Tricoteuse, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. I looked at it a few times, astonished by something about its honesty and quality of light that I could not quite place; and then astonished again by its unexplained orphanage — as it was included in no project pages save two user-space galleries across Wikipedia and her sister projects.

I inspected its central page on Wikimedia Commons to discover this last tidbit via the check usage tab… Commons also had a small descriptive page and gallery about Bouguereau and his works, where I found a second image similarly astonishing and underused. After marvelling on his works for a few long minutes, I realized I had found two extraordinary works in no time at all, and almost nothing of their origins; something was amiss.

It was no surprise to discover that his legacy had been somehow submerged for over half a century. Many compare him with Rembrandt, ignored for far longer and more actively in his own lifetime. Wikipedia had a short biography which alluded to this, and the first artsite I found with a page about him had a rant-like paean at once upholding his fine qualities and denouncing slanders that had kept him from public texts and encyclopedias and hidden his work from entire generations.
I then added his Tricoteuse and portrait of his future wife, Elizabeth Gardner, to the Wikipedia gallery dedicated to his works. Only as I was leaving that gallery did I realize I had seen — and bookmarked — one of his images before: a work of Nymphs and Satyr, again so striking that without remembering the artist’s name I had brought it to mind on a few occasions. And is this delightful piece entitled L’enlèvement de Psyché or Le ravissement de Psyché ? Rapture seems to suit it better.
At any rate, time spent with Bouguereau’s works is time well spent. Enjoy!

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