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William Bouguereau

Self-portrait

Artist

William Bouguereau
La Rochelle 1825 – La Rochelle 1905

Title

Self-portrait

Date

About 1879

Materials

Chalk and/or charcoal with white chalk highlights

Dimensions

44.7 x 32.4 cm

Credits

Gift in memory of Isaac Battat, in honour of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' 150th anniversary, inv. 2012.78

Collection

Graphic Arts

A side-by-side comparison of the work on paper and the painting exhibited in our gallery reveals that the former is a remarkably polished preparatory study for the canvas and provides details and clues to the genesis of the painting. Although highly finished, as is apparent from the white highlights in the hair, beard and face, the left ear, drawn with a single stroke, is only tentatively indicated. The sketch is in some respects different from the painting, notably in the as yet undefined knot of the tie, which the artist is clearly actively reworking on the sheet, and in the jacket collar, which appears narrower in the painting (the jacket having been presumably buttoned). Additional proof that this is a preparatory work for the canvas is the fact that the artist’s stern expression was later softened, the outh less twisted, the lips less tight and the artist’s regard outward less severe. The drawing conveys the image of a man at work, and the nervous concentration perceptible in it is softened in the painting so as to present an idealized version of the subject.

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