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Monday, February 8, 2016

“Bouguereau”, by Fronia E. Wissman

125 pages, Pomegranate, ISBN-13: 978-0876545829

Bouguereau, by museum art exhibition curator and art history expert Fronia E. Wissman, is a superbly presented collection of artwork underscored with thoughtful commentary showcasing one of the most simultaneously beloved and hated nineteenth-century French artists, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, an artist who, had he painted in an era that didn’t coincide with the impressionists, would no doubt be more famous and we’d be blessed with more retrospective art books. After searching for years, the Wissman book was a dream come true: something other than a calendar that contained more than five Bouguereau works. His realistic, classic paintings of nude bathers, nymphs, young women and figures of mythology have a captivating, attention-calling quality that turns the head and the eye. His images are here displayed in full color photographs and the informative text recounts his life and enhances our understanding of the background to his masterpieces in this engaging and very highly recommended addition to personal and academic Art History Reference collections. The presentation here is well thought out, with the paintings grouped by subject/theme, and the text therein describing chronologically the development of Bouguereau’s work. I appreciated the link between the artist's life and the influence of other artists and the art world at the time. The artwork itself is wonderfully portrayed, colorful and true, in almost all cases, the exceptions being an occasional inconsistency in contrast or sharpness (probably due to less-than-ideal photographic conditions were the paintings are found). I also applaud the inclusion of dimensions and location/credit notes which accompany almost all of the paintings. The only way to improve upon this book would be to include even more of the artist’s work and make it larger.

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