Charles Bargue was commissioned by Jean Leon Gerome to produce a series of lithographs as an educational tool for students. The students would copy the plates, learning about measurement, line and form. The drawings are Sight- Size, so there is scaling up or down, the measurements are mechanical, so there is no mathematical calculation involved. (as there would be with comparative measurement drawing) The student simply transfers the line at the same angle, length, and position as it appears in the plate. The aim here is not self-expression but to render the drawing as accurately as you can. They are training exercises that can and should be taught in Irish secondary schools.
The steps to producing a Bargue Drawing are:
- Step one - Notional space box: A box around the furthest points of the subject we are drawing
- Step two - Envelope: long straight lines to place the subject we are drawing in the notional space box, paying attention to the negative space.
- Step three - Plumb Line: when we drop a plumb line (vertical line) it gives us a useful measuring tool.
- Step four - Horizontal line: The horizontal line allows us to cross reference our measurements and helps us look for coincidences.
- Step five - Follow Through Lines: Cutting into our envelope with follow through lines defines the subject even more. Always start with the largest shapes and work down to the smaller ones.
- Step six - Pushing Out: Drawing curves with straight lines. It is very difficult to take a measurement from a curve so when we draw with straight lines we provide ourselves with angles that make the job easier. Draw these as follow through lines and try to keep them simple. Work the smaller shapes and smaller lines within the drawing and finish with rendering.
- Step seven - Rendering: Rendering is blocking in the shadow shape with the appropriate tone. (tone refers to the lightness and darkness of an object). Attention must be payed to the quality of the edges of the shadow. A cast shadow will tend to have a sharper edge than body shadow.