Herold Green, Bouguereau Battle, 1975_ISANG Collection

- The title of the work references French academic painter and traditionalist William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905). Bouguereau’s realistic rendered genre painting used mythological themes and classical subjects, both pagan and Christian, imbuing then with erotic Victorian flair. He concentrated on the naked female body, bringing to life goddesses, nymphs, bathers, and Madonna’s in a way that appealed to wealthy art patrons of the era. Bouguereau was considered to be one of the greatest painters in the world by the academic art community of his time, and simultaneously he was reviled by the avant-garde. Degas used the term "Bouguereauté" in a derogatory manner to describe any artistic style reliant on "slick and artificial surfaces".  Paul Gauguin loathed him, describing in Avant et après (Intimate Journals) the single occasion when Bouguereau made him smile, on coming across a couple of his paintings in an Arles' brothel, "where they belonged". On the one hand Bouguereau became a wealthy and influential man, painting titillating female forms for the bourgeois market, on the other hand he used his influence to open many French art institutions to women for the first time.
Green’s painting, a still life of what could be an art history pin board, includes direct visual references to the works of a number of artists. Sando Botticelli’s Birth of Venus peels away from its stretcher. A Joan Miro-esque image is inserted where Venus’s face would have been, suggesting that this idealised image of a woman is just a non-objective idea, a mask. A Salvador Dali portrait is slotted to the right of the canvas ogling Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus (1863), illustrated as a postcard pinned to the canvas. Cabanel’s paintings are known for their erotic quality, in which his subjects are depicted as neither asleep nor awake, but in an orgasmic trance, designed to appeal to the male gaze. Green’s painting illustrates a battle for relevance between art historical movements and individuals, highlighting how the depiction of women has been integral to the achievements of male artists.