The Wave, 1896
William Adolphe Bouguereau
Oil on Canvas
I’ve never had the opportunity to study Bougereau, probably because the academic tradition was under attack by the impressionists by this time and art history teachers think that change and revolution in the art world is more important- well, yeah, maybe.
She looks cold and fleshy and as though she floats above her surroundings. The contrast between the calm and happy (if chilled) model and the threat of the wave that’s about to crash down on her creates a tension that makes the painting vibrate and come alive. As though you need to keep watching to see what happens next. It’s dynamic, dramatic and vibrant. The pinky-beige flesh tones and the bronze-y colour of the rock are complementary colours with the blues which adds to the vibrancy of the work. (perhaps he took the use of the theory of complementary colours from the impressionists in order to ‘get with it’ even as they were forcing him out of favour- oh how tragic)
Things I love about this painting:
the wrinkles in the sole of her foot
her tiny little mouth
that it looks like the artist had never seen anyone bathe in the sea. Not one part of her interacts with the water or is even a little wet. It’s like she’s sitting on a block of ice.
I love you W.A.B. You’ll never be unfashionable to me xx