The Young Shepherdess William-Adolphe Bouguereau Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Young Shepherdess depicts a young woman tending to her flock of sheep as she looks back to the viewer with some curiosity.

A quaint scene made beautiful with a subtle attention to detail and expression that help bring the picture to life.

This pastoral painting is made with subdued colours that convey a gentle peacefulness in the scene, and harkens back to the ideal view of a farmhand as she does her part to help with the livestock. She stands only with her sheep as they feed on a sea of grass near gentle rolling hills under an open sky.

Painted in 1885, The Young Shepherdess helps to evoke a nostalgic feeling in the viewer. It calls to mind a simpler life from much simpler times than today, free from the worries of modern urban life.

This woman is depicted as unthreatened and unburdened, not even wearing shoes to the pasture. All she holds is the carrot used to call the sheep to her when it is time to return them all back to their pens.

The skies are clear, the greenery is plentiful, and no danger is present. Only the winds pass by the pasture to threaten her carefully done up hair. Only the rare sound of a sheep bleating in the background breaks the peaceful silence. The rigours of city life are left far behind and out of sight.

William-Adolphe Bougereau's preference for traditional style paintings is showcased with The Young Shepherdess and other similar paintings he has done within the Pastoral theme.

He enjoyed painting rural settings such as the one shown in this painting here and in many other works he had done in his life. Much of his focus is on the subject and maintaining proper anatomy, lending to a more realistic painting that looks as though it could be a photograph instead of marks of oil on a canvas mounted to a board.

The little details in the painting as well, such as the wisps of hair blowing in the wind, the folds in the clothes that she wears, even the tiny creases in her neck as she turns towards the viewer, are also a defining trait of Bougereau's works.

They help lead to a more life-like subject, showing her as she lived in that one fragment of time. This high degree of finish can be seen in many of his other artworks as well.