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    Tutorial: Paint a Portrait in the Style of Bouguereau with Corel Painter

    At the height of his career, William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905) was considered to be one of the greatest painters in the world by the Academic art community. His almost photo-realistic style was popular with rich art patrons. Until just recently, Bouguereau and his Academic contemporaries had been mostly forgotten. During the 20th century, their work was completely eclipsed by the French Impressionists, such as Monet and Degas. Today there is renewed interest and appreciation in Bouguereau’s work.

    The Nut Gatherers, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1882. Oil on canvas.

    Recently, I found the following stock photo on Fotolia, which is a terrific stock photography site. The subject of this photo, wearing a bandana and a greenish-yellow jumper, reminded me of the children dressed as gypsies that Bouguereau so often painted. I thought I’d try to paint this photo in the style of Bouguereau.

    A stock photo from

    First, I began hunting through the hundreds of paintings by Bouguereau hosted on the Art Renewal Center website. There are quite a few portraits of young girls in country garb, done mostly in a three-quarter view. Basically what I was looking for was a background with a good match for coloring. Also, I was hoping to find something better for my subject to sit on, other than the stump in the photo. I found the following painting, which seemed to be a good fit. The subject in the painting has very nearly the same pose, down to the way her toes are bent. She’s even wearing a yellow scarf!

    Meditation, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1885. Oil on canvas.

    The yellows and greens will be a perfect match for my subject, once I change the color of her jumper a bit. By using an analogous color scheme (colors close together on the color wheel), I’m hoping to lend a harmonious, restful feeling to my painting. This is part of the “look” of Bouguereau’s work. I’ll need to make the stone block a bit shorter, since my subject is much younger. Here’s what my background looks like after cloning out the original subject (most of her, anyway).

    Here’s the painting after cloning out the subject, and altering the size of the stone block.

    Next, I very carefully removed the background from the stock photo. After copying and pasting it onto a layer above the background just created, above, I saw I’d need to paint the shadow under her feet, since they were in a different position. Then I made some color adjustments to her jumper, removing the green, added a touch of shadow along her jumper, and it was ready to go in Painter.

    Stock photo composited with painting background, ready for Painter.

    Starting with a Quick Clone, I used a Captured Bristle with a large brush size to “block in” the entire image. Here’s a close-up showing how rough it looks at this point.

    Large size brushes are used to block in the major masses of color.

    The scarf is a modern-day bandana, so I decided to paint a scarf similar to the one in the original painting. I sampled color with the eye dropper from the Bouguereau, and painted freehand to create the feeling of a pattern. The face is pretty much a straight clone from the photo. The loose hairs were added last, using a Cover Pencil at about 9 pixels, and then blended a bit with a Soft Charcoal with 0 percent Resat.

    Close-up of the final painting, showing the brushwork on the scarf and the loose hairs.

    Using a smaller brush size, I went back over the entire background, pulling in more detail from the original. The dress, apple, and other details are a combination straight clone and freehand painting. Bouguereau’s painting style was very “tight,” so I tried to mimic that high degree of finish. Here’s the final painting.

    Girl With an Apple, in the style of Bougeureau. Created with Corel Painter by Bob Nolin.