William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Broken Pitcher, 1891
Oil on canvas, 53 x 33 in. (134.6 x 83.8 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Bequest of M.H. de Young, 53162
William-Adolphe Bouguereau was one of the most famous and influential French academic artists of the later nineteenth century. His Broken Pitcher of 1891 exhibits many of the stylistic qualities central to academic teaching of the time, including the careful description of forms with clear contours and smooth three-dimensional modeling, an idealized approach to the human figure, and balanced, architectural massing within the composition. It also manifests the penchant for infusing sentimentality and even light eroticism into the most time-honored subjects. In theme, The Broken Pitcher draws on a fashion for peasant or rural imagery pioneered by Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet around mid-century.
-- Steve A. Nash, Masterworks of European Painting in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor (1999)
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