William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
Oil on fabric, Framed: 132 x 99 x 10.6 cm (51 15/16 x 39 x 4 3/16 in.); Unframed: 104 x 71 cm (40 15/16 x 27 15/16 in.). Gift of the Frances W. Ingalls Trust 1996.272
Seated on a stone step in the countryside, a young girl has realized that her calling in life is to be an artist. Bouguereau was famous for his innovative depictions of children. In 1900 a critic wrote, "[F]ew artists have represented childhood with more tenderness, charm, and spirit than Bouguereau . . . [H]e has invented the most picturesque, the most pleasing, the most original scenes of an almost endless variety." Bouguereau was no less famous for his remarkably life-like images. Here he convincingly captures the girl's rough clothing, soft skin, and intense gaze. Bouguereau painted this work in La Rochelle, a harbor city on France's west coast. During the later years of his life, Bouguereau—by then wealthy and famous—made a habit of spending summers in La Rochelle. There the artist lived in a mansion he owned near the port, working in a greenhouse he had converted into a studio or in the countryside. While in La Rochelle, Bouguereau chose his models from among farm workers, families of local fishermen, or his own servants.
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