Charles Bargue (1825-1883) was a French painter and lithographer noted for devising an influential drawing course conceived in collaberation with Jean-Leon Gerome.  This course was designed to guide students to a higher level of skill in drawing using plates, plasters and living models.

    The course was called "Cours de Dessin" (drawing course) similar to the teaching of the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts(pronounced"Ecole de Boz-Ar") of Paris, and is now used for curriculum in very expensive Atelier training. It consisted of 197 lithographs printed as individual sheets. The modern book "Cours de Dessin" (pronounced "cor de desson") ($10-Amazon) has 130 of those lithographs, and the book  "Complete Bargue Drawing Course" by Burst Books ($30-Amazon) contains the entire 197 plates.  

    This is one of the most popular classical art drawing courses in the world, training the eye of the student to understand the effects of light and shadow, the illusion of form.  They promote the point of view that fine art students need to study the rich traditions of the classical art vs the typical modern art schools that encourage "freedom of expression" rather than skill. 

    The benefits of training the eye is not to be taken lightly.  If you are really serious about improving your drawing skills, then yes, it is well worth pursuing! Among the artist's whose work is based on the study of Bargue's plate work are Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh who did the course at least twice.  (Interesting side note: Van Gogh, should be pronounced "Van Goff" according to Dutch authorities) 

    I myself have been through the basic Bargue Drawing Course which took about a year.  I didn't do all 197 plates, but at least 50 of them which is typical these days.  I am now going through the course for a second time and I find it much easier this time around!  I can do each plate is about half the time it took in the first course.  Probably because I learned the "HOW TO DO" instructions which are NOT included in the book, proof that instructions are worth their weight in gold! 

    The image is the final drawing I did in my first Bargue Drawing Course. I remember looking at the plate when I began the course and gulped, thinking I sure hope I will be able to do half of that! Well, it is a testament to what this course does for an artist.  I am amazed at how much better my "eye" is now and this second time around I find the course MUCH easier to do! It is not unusual to spend days drawing the more complicated plates such as HOMER below.  I haven't done him again- yet.  I am interested to see how long it will take when I do.  I remember spending about a week getting each nuance of his beard and hair correctly drawn and shaded.

     The point I want to make here is that anyone serious about being a high-quality artist SHOULD do the Bargue Course. BUT, they need to learn HOW to do them to save themselves time and frustration! To that end I have decided to  give some "HOW TO DO BARGUE PLATES" workshops here locally in north Florida.  I hope to use my experience to help others not make the same mistakes I did, and to have an easier and more pleasant time so that they are proud and happy, not pulling their hair out in frustration!

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