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Charity (La Charité)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Artwork Details

Charity (La Charité)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
oil on canvas
54 ⅞ in x 44 ¼ in x 2 ½ in (139.38 cm x 112.4 cm x 6.35 cm);54 ⅞ in x 44 ¼ in x 2 ½ in (139.38 cm x 112.4 cm x 6.35 cm)
Bequest of Henry C. Lewis


March 28 2009
Charity was a popular theme for many nineteenth-century artists and one that Bouguereau revisited throughout his career. Along with faith and hope, it is one of the three Christian virtues, defined as love of God or the love of one’s neighbor for the sake of God. This virtue was often personified by acts of mercy—such as clothing the naked or nursing the sick—or, as here, by a mother with multiple children.
All of Bouguereau’s paintings were meticulously planned and executed: each was preceded by an initial oil sketch and numerous pencil drawings from life, and his incredible technical skill is evident in the precise drawing, the clarity of the forms, and the flawless flesh tones. His paintings are also characterized by their “licked” finish, painstakingly achieved by adding extra oil medium to the paint, which was applied in thin glazes with a coat of varnish between each layer. The result was a surface so smooth that individual brushstrokes are invisible.
Bouguereau was one of the most successful artists of the last decades of the nineteenth century, and his paintings were especially popular with Americans, who often bought them as soon as they were completed.

Subject Matter:

Charity was a popular theme for many 19th-century artists and a subject, which Bouguereau revisited throughout his career. He studied the work of Renaissance masters and was greatly influenced by Classical and early Italian Renaissance art, drawing much of his subject matter from mythological, classical and biblical stories. In “Charity” the carefully arranged poses, highly finished surface, restrained yet rich palette, and dramatic use of light, which are hallmarks of Bouguereau's style, serve to idealize and ennoble the subject.

Physical Description:

Painting of a woman holding two sleeping nude babies, wearing white fabric draped over her head and shoulders with abundant blue-green fabric wrapped and loosely gathered around the rest of her body standing in front of a lush background with areas of blue sky peaking through the foliage.

Usage Rights:

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