Thursday, July 12, 2012


In histories of French art, the benchmark for wholesale Academy-style bad taste is usually represented by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905). Hugely prolific and popular throughout the 19th century, he is still represented (though no longer necessarily on show) in the majority of art museums. And even though curators may hate his work nowadays, the public still loves it. I have on several different occasions in several different cities personally observed crowds to gather in front of these slyly-sexualized pictures of ostensibly innocent girls.

Bouguereau painted The Story Book (above) in 1877, illustrating the fact that it takes a lot of contrivance to produce the truly kinky. His subject here has the hands and arms of a three-year-old, the face of an eight-year-old, and the torso of an adolescent.

Bouguereau's vision of a dead beauty en deshabille wafted to heaven by angels made an appearance in earlier days here.