Oh My Dear Chevalier
If 1800’s avante-garde impressionist Adolphe-William Bouguereau were alive today, it would require the best French wine (though I don’t drink) to compose me for an interview. It would likely take place in his home studio in La Rochelle, France, and I would have to get over feeling hopelessly starstruck (which I never am). I knew nothing about him when I was introduced to his work. As with most artists, nothing about his personal background influenced my response to his creations. Bouguereau’s mastery pierces my soul and gets inside my head as easily as light penetrates the eye. His paintings whisper their invisible drug into my heart. Before I can blink, the most private spirits that live there stream to the surface. My deepest emotions of love for my two older sisters and family flood my consciousness. With zero resistance, I am raptured into memories of innocence, elation, and loss. How is it possible that each impression paddles me away to a place so cavernously archived in my heart?
Bougeureau was not your common starving artist ~ not financially. He was well educated, lauded by elite societies, and honored by royal academies. As a boy, his uncle tutored him in Latin, Greek, and the Bible. In 1859, he was made a knight (chevalier) of France and then later in the order of Leopold in Belgium. He was no stranger to intense suffering either. He lost his first wife and several of his five children including Adolphe-Paul (to Tuberculosis) at the age of 30. Perhaps Bougeureau died of a broken heart (he passed after several years of heart disease). Ironically, so many of his works have stolen mine.