Mark Steven Walker

Mark Steven WalkerMark Steven Walker, 1979 graduate (b.1951 – d.1993) studied with prominent American painter and teacher Richard Lack in Minneapolis from 1976–1980 after earning his BFA and MA degrees in art from West Texas State University.


To honor Mark Steven Walker’s life and the extraordinary contribution he made as an expert on Bouguereau to bring he and his work out of obscurity, it is only fitting that his biography should include an excerpt of what he wrote concerning the now famous painter.1

Bouguereau, The Education of Bacchus

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Education of Bacchus, 1884
Private collection

William-Adolphe Bouguereau

and the Craft of Picture-Making

To fully appreciate the art of Bouguereau, one must profess a deep respect for the discipline of drawing and the craft of traditional picture-making; one must likewise submit to the mystery of illusion as one of painting’s most characteristic and sublime powers. Bouguereau’s vast repertory of playful and poetic images cannot help but appeal to those who are fascinated with nature’s appearances and with the celebration of human sentiment frankly and unabashedly expressed.

However, it remains to understand exactly what the artist was trying to represent, given Bouguereau’s, in many ways, unique style. Although Bouguereau has been classified by many writers as a realist painter because of the apparent photographic nature of his illusions, the painter otherwise has little in common with other artists belonging to the Realist movement. Bouguereau himself regarded his tastes as eclectic, and his work indeed exhibits characteristics peculiar to Neo-Classicism, Romanticism and Impressionism, as well as Realism. Within these categories, the painter is perhaps best understood as a Romantic Realist, but one would also be quite justified in this case of devising an entirely new school of painting and labeling him the first, the quintessential Photo-Idealist. The designation is apt in that, although Bouguereau actively collected photographs and tempered his observations of nature with a keen awareness of the qualities of light inherent in the photographic image, he almost never worked from photographs. The rare exceptions are a few portraits, usually of posthumous subjects, which are readily identifiable as photographic derivatives as they exhibit an uncharacteristic flatness and pose.

Bouguereau and his fellow academicians practiced a method of painting that had been developed and refined over the centuries in order to bring to vivid life imagined scenes from history, literature and fantasy. The acquisition of the necessary skills to produce a first-rate academic painter was a long and laborious process. Forever distrustful of educational reforms, Bouguereau once wrote:

“Theory has no place … in an artist’s basic education. It is the eye and the hand that should be exercised during the impressionable years of youth … It is always possible to later acquire the accessory knowledge involved in the production of a work of art, but never – and I want to stress that point – never can the will, perseverance, and the tenacity of a mature man make up for insufficient practice. And can there be such anguish compared to that felt by the artist who sees the realization of his dream compromised by weak execution?”1

Bouguereau, Return from the Harvest

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Return from the Harvest, 1879
Private collection