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.