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Nymphs and Satyr by Adolphe-William Bouguereau

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Nymphs and Satyr, 1873, by Adolphe-William Bouguereau :: The painting is described in the text of this page

The oil on canvas "Nymphs and Satyr" was painted in 1873. It is 260×180 cm and owned by the Clark Institute. In the tenth edition of Gardner's "Art through the Ages" it is described like this:

"In the painting by Adolphe-William Bouguereau (1825-1905), Realism was blended with a very different kind of Classicism. Bouguereau depicted Classical, mythological subjects with a dynamic Rococo exuberance of composition and an optical Realism that achieved a startling illusionism, as in his Nymphs and Satyr where the playful and ideally beautiful nymphs strike graceful poses, yet seem based as closely on nature as are the details of their leafy surroundings. The painter even created the figure of his mythical beast-man by combining Realist depictions of a goat's hind quarters and horns and a horse's ears and tail with the upper body of a man.

A painting like this presses the question of whether the subjects of myth, fancy, and fiction could be painted with the techniques of Realism without evoking incredulity and, perhaps, a sense of absurdity in the observer. For the Classicist, Bouguereau's Nymphs and Satyr would fail to fulfill a longing "for nothing more than the moment in which conception and representation will flow together." The Realist would find the picture false due to the incongruence of its form and content and the unrealistic nature of its subject. The obvious conflict in many of Bouguereau's pictures, as well as in those of other recognized artists of the time, did not displease the public. Bouguereau was immensely popular, enjoying the favor of state patronage throughout his career. His reputation has fluctuated violently; the moderns of his century damned him as the very archetype of the official painter, but critics of our own day acknowledge his love of beauty and his undeniable painterly skills, if not always his esthetic wisdom and taste."


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