Drawing Basics: Bargue, and Step by Step Instruction on How to Draw People

7 Apr 2009

A recent project here in the American Artist offices put me back in touch with the art-instruction plates of Charles Bargue, 197 lithos made in the mid-1800s in France that are designed to help an art student who has mastered the drawing basics to progress through a progressively more difficult drawing course focused primarily on the human figure. Drawings of plaster casts feature prominently in the course, which was most famously followed by a man named Vincent van Gogh. The course is rigorous and was designed to be followed in a carefully prescribed manner, but jumping around in the somewhat rare and rather expensive contemporary publication of the course will not result in injury or death. A second printing is evidently now in stock at the Dahesh Museum of Art, in Greenwich, Connecticut.

I find the book very helpful in learning how to tackle the human ear. I have copied its lithos showing step-by-step instruction on drawing hands and feet, too. I only wish it had broken down the Laocoön statue for study, because that is a personal goal of mine.

We covered the publication of the plates in the Spring 2004 issue of Drawing magazine, but that issue has been sold out for several years. 

 

Charles Bargue book: Drawing Course


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sdoherty wrote
on 7 Apr 2009 10:13 AM

I included the following material in a recent Workshop magazine article and thought it might be a useful summary of the sight-size method that was promoted by Bargue. Steve

The Sight-Size Technique, by Peter Bougie

“The sight-size method of measurement was a common method of working for both students and accomplished artists prior to the twentieth century, during which it fell into disuse in most art education settings. The term ‘sight-size’ refers to making a drawing the size it would be if projected onto a plane extending left or right from your drawing board and intersecting your line of sight. This enables the artists to look at the subject and the drawing from a chosen vantage point and see them side by side – and appearing to be the same size. A plumb line is established for measuring widths on the subject from an established point, and a hand-held plumb line is used to line up features of the subject with the corresponding features of the drawing. This enables the artist to make very objective, virtually absolute, comparisons of shape and proportion. It is a superlative learning tool because it helps the student see objectively how what he or she has done compares to nature…”

docpage wrote
on 9 Apr 2009 5:57 PM

I love this book, and work from it when I can.  Many (if not all) of my drawing teachers recommend it.  Funny thing, if you read all the introductory material, you will find out that no one really knows what the original plates functioned for.   They have these plates, and obviously they were used for life drawing classes of some kind, but the instruction in the book is by inference only.   I find the more I work from them, which is basically to say, the more I copy them, the more I learn about artistic construction.   Great book.  Thanks Steve....

on 10 Apr 2009 7:38 AM

Thanks for the reference. I'm always looking for books like this to learn from and have requested it from my library.

LordBishop08 wrote
on 6 Jun 2009 9:48 PM

I just got this book.  I just read the beginning and found out what docpage just said!  Evidently,  the instructions in the book were pretty close because artists have been learning from the plates like that for years.

L Forshaw wrote
on 12 Sep 2011 1:46 PM

I'm a new student at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto, Canada, where we are drawing the Bargue plates as part of our curriculum.  

For anyone seriously interested in the Bargue Drawing Course,  I highly recommend  "The Bargue Drawing Companion DVD, produced by our head instructor, Fernando Frietas.  It covers all the essentials of measurement and rendering of form, plus it also includes printable pages of course notes.  

Fernando is a master at drawing 'the Bargue', and this being a DVD, rather than a book, makes the companion a particularly useful reference, because you get to watch him in action!

academyofrealistart.com/dvd.html

L Forshaw wrote
on 12 Sep 2011 1:47 PM

I'm a new student at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto, Canada, where we are drawing the Bargue plates as part of our curriculum.  

For anyone seriously interested in the Bargue Drawing Course,  I highly recommend  "The Bargue Drawing Companion DVD, produced by our head instructor, Fernando Frietas.  It covers all the essentials of measurement and rendering of form, plus it also includes printable pages of course notes.  

Fernando is a master at drawing 'the Bargue', and this being a DVD, rather than a book, makes the companion a particularly useful reference, because you get to watch him in action!

academyofrealistart.com/dvd.html

L Forshaw wrote
on 12 Sep 2011 1:47 PM

I'm a new student at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto, Canada, where we are drawing the Bargue plates as part of our curriculum.  

For anyone seriously interested in the Bargue Drawing Course,  I highly recommend  "The Bargue Drawing Companion DVD, produced by our head instructor, Fernando Frietas.  It covers all the essentials of measurement and rendering of form, plus it also includes printable pages of course notes.  

Fernando is a master at drawing 'the Bargue', and this being a DVD, rather than a book, makes the companion a particularly useful reference, because you get to watch him in action!

academyofrealistart.com/dvd.html