The Elder Sister – William-Adolphe Bouguereau Analysis

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The Elder Sister is a painting by a well-known French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau. This work of art was completed by William in 1869. As a result of research made on this painting, it was found that the painting was anonymously given to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston as a gift in 1992. According to the museum, this was a gift of an anonymous lady in memory of her father. Since then this amazing work of art has been a part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine arts, Houston; becoming one of the most notable highlights in the museums painting collection.

Its dimensions are 51? ? 38? in (130. 2 ? 97. 2 cm) and the frame is 67? ? 55 ? 5? in (171. 5 ? 139. 7 ? 14 cm). This ‘oil on canvas’ painting shows a young girl (which represents the character of ‘the elder sister’) without shoes, sitting on a rock and holding a much younger child on her lap, with a calm, quiet and beautiful rural terrestrial landscape behind her. William Bouguereau is well known for his academic painting style in which he uses his skill and talent in painting children, showing in huge detail every expression, and mood or feeling he is trying to pass across to the viewers.

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The beauty of the girl and her eyes, which are looking directly at the viewer, as well as the balance composition and the positioning of the legs and arms of the children, demonstrate this fact. One of the major reasons I was very interested in this painting was the excellent use of colors. William uses these colors to show movement and to depict a sense of realism to his viewers. He uses a combination of warm, bright and dull colors to provide beauty to the painting.

It is a realistic painting in which we can see realistic objects like the clouds, the grass, the earth, sand, mud, little stones/rocks, shrubs, water and a whole lot. Looking at this painting at a glance, I thought it was a photograph; that is how realistic it is. William uses colors in little details to show the different objects. At the bottom of the painting, we can see his use of color composition to separate the mini rocks from the mud and the shrubs. We can also see the use of black shades to create a hole at the bottom part of the rock.

With his excellent use of colors, we can identify the good, healthy and green grass from the bad, unhealthy, brown grasses. Looking beyond the main focus of the painting, he uses colors to separate the sky from the land in the background creating a solid form of perspective on the painting. He also uses colors to create water forms as seen behind the young character. Now, for the sky, he uses shades of white to magnificently differentiate the thick clouds from the light ones.

He also uses this to create a source to light to the whole area. All these put together creates a splendid, realistic and familiar atmosphere for the viewers to relate with. Another attracting feature of this painting is that it appeals to your emotional side. Personally, I have an elder sister and we share a connection that is really rare. I have a picture of her, holding me as a baby with a huge smile on her face and this painting ultimately reminds me of that; giving me nothing but pleasant memories.

That is what William is trying to do here. He uses the soothing and caring facial expression of the young lady together with the tenderness of the sleeping baby to capture his viewers and appeal to their caring and emotional side. In nutshell, this painting is altogether amazing and beautiful. I remember staring at it for a couple minutes trying to ponder on it. It is definitely one of the best paintings I have personally encountered. I can relate to it and it is aesthetically pleasing and just plain magnificent.

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The Elder Sister – William-Adolphe Bouguereau Analysis. (2017, Jan 07). Retrieved from

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