Generations of late Nineteenth Century art students, including Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, made active use of a series of 200 lithographed drawings of the nude figure created by little-known French artist, Charles Bargue (1825-26-1883).
Bargue, hugely talented and probably self-taught, first published the exquisite collection of plates called the Cours de Dessin in Paris with Goupil & Cie between 1868 and 1873. Goupil connected Bargue with one of his best-selling artists, Gerome, and together they published and sold thousands of these teaching manuals. Young artists copied plates in sequence in order to perfect their drawing skills, hoping to emulate Bargue’s refinement of line, shading, volume and perspective.
“Charles Bargue; The Art of Drawing,” at the Dahesh Museum of Art until February 8, is the first exhibition devoted to this artist and his oeuvre. Among the rarely seen treasures is one of the last remaining Cours de Dessin (the most important of only two complete sets known to exist); the majority of Bargue’s extremely rare oil paintings, jewel-like works that were highly sought after by major contemporary collectors in both Europe and the United States; and a selection of his most significant drawings.
The exhibition coincides with the long anticipated re-publication (by ACR Press, Paris) of the Original Cours de Dessin, set in a hard cover sleeve. Guest curator Professor Gerald M. Ackerman, the preeminent Gerome and Bargue scholar, is the author of the accompanying exhibition monograph, published in cooperation with the Dahesh Museum of Art. His incisive interpretations of each plate, afford the artist/reader with a clear understanding of how the manual was meant to function as a teaching tool. Ackerman’s biography of Bargue is the first ever published anywhere.
The museum is at 580 Madison Avenue. For information, 212-759-0606 or www.daheshmuseum.org.