Philbrook Features French Phenomenon

Friday, September 15th 2006, 10:59 am
By: News On 6

Out of the thousands of wonderful paintings at Philbrook Museum, one has always been a favorite of curators and visitors alike. The little Shepherdess has been at Philbrook for decades. For, the first time, the museum now has an exhibit on the painting's creator, William Bouguereau and the American students he inspired.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says if you've been to Philbrook, you probably know Bouguereau's face, but you might not know the artist William Bouguereau. "In the 19th century, he was one of the most famous artists and one of the best artists, best-known artists. And it's only in this century that he was sort of forgotten and rediscovered recently."

Philbrook curator James Peck has toiled away on this exhibit for 3 years, wrangling loans of Bouguereau's best works from other museums, as well as the works of the American artists who went to Paris near the turn of the century to learn from Bouguereau.

Peck says realism, especially the human figure, was "the" art form during that period, and Bouguereau was considered the best and his figures have a vibrant, 3-dimensional quality. "Bouguereau's paintings often do look like sculpture on canvas. Everyone is amazed at the technical, his technical ability and I think that's why people spend so long in front of the painting and are just in awe of his talent."

This is the first touring exhibit that has been originated by Philbrook in five years. Peck says it's good for a museum's reputation. "This show is touring to two national venues. We have a catalog that's being distributed by Yale National Press, which is a fabulous national press, so it gives Tulsa and Philbrook a great national spotlight where we can shine."

The nice thing about realism Peck says is that anyone from grade-schooler to art scholar can recognize and appreciate good work. And this exhibit is probably long overdue. "She has been gracing our walls since 1947 and has become really just an icon not only of Philbrook but of Tulsa as well so, she's absolutely beautiful."

The William Bouguereau exhibit officially opens this Sunday at Philbrook and runs for about 3 months. It then goes to Ocala, Florida and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.