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William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825–1905),
The Knitting Girl (Tricoteuse) , 1869
oil on canvas, 57 x 39 in.; 144.78 x 99.06 cm
Bequest of Jessie Barton Christiancy, 1931.106

In the mid-1860s, William Adolphe Bouguereau began painting idealized images of peasant women and children. Joslyn’s The Knitting Girl is Bouguereau’s first and most monumental representation of the image. Sitting serenely under a tree, this young girl is lost in thought as she knits. Dressed in simple clothes for the day (and barefoot!), she’s a wonderful example of the beauty of the everyday in art.

Bouguereau, an Academic painter par excellence, developed two main themes: sentimentalized images of pretty peasant, gypsy, and beggar girls and idealized female nudes personifying abstract concepts such as the seasons. Like Academic painters in general, Bouguereau’s artistic reputation has varied greatly. Celebrated in the nineteenth century, he was discredited in the twentieth for clinging to an outmoded tradition, only to be appreciated again recently for his superb technical mastery.

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