William-Adolphe Bouguereau - L'Aurore (Dawn) (1881)
Completion Date: 1881
Original size: 209 x 120 cm
Art movement: Realism, Mythological painting
Where was it painted: France
Medium: Oil on canvas
Where can I see it: Private collection
Dawn – early morning represented by a female figure reaching back to smell a blooming calla lily – exemplifies William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s standards of beauty and technical skill. His attention to detail and smooth finished surfaces produced human figures that are both lyrical and ideal.
Bouguereau studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and classical art at the Villa Medici in Rome, which gave him a chance to explore the human form in depth. Critics praised his images of nudes particularly for the meticulously detailed yet gentle rendering of skin.
A passage in Homer’s Odyssey that describes the breaking of day as a “rosy-fingered dawn, the child of the morning” inspired him to paint the figure’s fingers and toes with a pinker hue than the rest of her flesh.