European Art: 19th Century

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Monsieur M., 1850

William-Adolphe Bouguereau

French, 1825-1905
Oil on canvas
34-1/4 x 27-3/4 in. (87.0 x 70.5 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1977.13.1.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on view

The work of William-Adolphe Bouguereau epitomizes French academic painting of the mid-nineteenth century. His work was widely admired,
due in part to its subject matter, and he became well known for his portrayal of the idealized nude and for his religious subjects. Bouguereau was in every way the countercurrent to the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist avant-garde, a difference emphasized by the refined finish, direct presentation and conventional pose of this portrait. The sitter is identified only as “Monsieur M.” in the Salon catalogue of 1850–51—a courtesy typically employed for someone wishing to maintain anonymity. He may have been the son of Charles Marcotte, who Ingres painted in 1810: the similarities between the sitters’ features are remarkable, particularly in the lip, nose and brow. While Bouguereau’s treatment of the sitter’s long, thin hand contrasts with Ingres’s depiction of Marcotte’s boneless fingers, the delicate, turned-down wrists in both portraits may be another clue to their connection.

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