William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)

Le jour

William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
Le jour
signed and dated 'W. Bouguereau 84' (lower left)
oil on canvas
82 x 43 in. (208.3 x 109.2 cm.)
Painted in 1884.
with Goupil & Cie., Paris (acquired directly from the artist).
with Knoedler & Co., New York.
Robert Graves; American Art Association, New York, 9-10 February 1887, lot 199.
with Knoedler & Co., New York.
with F. Schnitter & Son.
Anonymous sale; Parke Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, 14 January, 1943, lot, 92.
Julius Weitzner.
Private Collection, Connecticut.
C. Vendryès, 'Bouguereau,' Dictionnaire illustré des Beaux Arts, Bouguereau, Paris, 1885, p. 64.
M. Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 155.
M. S. Walker, 'A Summary Catalogue of the Paintings,' in William Adolphe Bouguereau: L'Art Pompier, Borghi & Co., New York, 1991, p. 72.
Paris, Salon, 1884.

Lot Essay

This work reveals Bouguereau at the height of his artistic ability. By now a member of the Institute, recognized and respected by his peers, he had at last reached the apogee of his career and found himself inundated with numerous official honors. The recent birth of his grandson was a further reason for joy.

Following the resounding success of the Birth of Venus at the 1879 Salon, Bouguereau embarked on a series of four allegorical works, all of them glorifications of feminine grace and symbols of the various hours of the day; Dawn, painted in (1881), Dusk (1882), Night (1883) (fig. 1), and finally Day, painted in 1884. Four other works also relate to the series: The Fallen Star; The Two Bathers; Crouching Bather, and, finally, Bouguereau's favorite painting of his oeuvre, the famous Byblis, all of which date from 1884.

Bouguereau's sole aim in this group of works was the celebration of feminine beauty, of form, and of the rhythm of color. Such a prolific output of nudes over such a short period of time is exceptional for Bouguereau, whose oeuvre comprises only a very small number of them. All of the figures in this group derive from the academic nude, but also anticipate the host of fantaisies inspired by the ancient world.

An engraving on wood depicting Bouguereau working on Day in front of his model who stands on a table, holding on to a piece of rope to help her maintian her pose, was published in L'Illustration. The engraving was based on a photograph now in a private collection.

Both Vachon, Bouguereau's biographer, and Goupil's sales ledgers list two paintings entitled Day; the first under the year 1883, the second registered under 1884. To our knowledge, Bouguereau not once painted two different compositions bearing the same title. It is possible that confusion stems from the existence of a reduced version worked on by one of Bouguereau's students. The print of the composition engraved by Didier and published by Boussod & Valadon on October 1, 1887, would seem to support this hypothesis, since the very reason for producing these smaller versions was for use by the printmaker.

A photograph of Day was published by Goupil.

We are grateful to Damien Bartoli for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Damien Bartoli with the assistance of Fredd Ross, the Bouguereau Committee and the Art Renewal Center.

(fig. 1) William Bouguereau, Night, 1883. Photo Courtesy: Hillwood Museum and Gardens, Washington D.C.
(fig. 2) Bouguereau working on Le jour in his studio.

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