Copies of Bargue Drawings

The links below will take you to detailed decriptions of my personal experience of learning how to copy the Bargue plates, without the benefit of a teacher.

Actually, you don't need one. With a combination of the infromation here and in the book itself, you should be able to do fine on your own. Email me if you have any questions.

Plate One

The course starts out fairly simply with plate one. At least, the drawings look simple until you try to copy them with unflinching accuracy.

This plate taught me the basics of workign sight size, a technique I've used frequently since and to good effect. It's a great way to sharpen up your eye.

I made such a mess of this plate I did it twice.

Plate Two

This second plate of profiles represents quite a jump in difficulty from the first plate.

On average, the drawings on this plate took me about an hour each. But was aiming for absolute accuracy.

I didn't achieve it, but I did come close.

Plate Three

The third plate features the introduction of tone, and again is quite a step up from the previous plate.

Amusingly, I doscovered I'd been going about copying the plates incorrectly at this point. Or at least, I hadn't been following the recommended proceedure in the book.

I put that right on this plate, and my understanding of the sight size technique took a giant leap forward.

Plate Four

In this fourth plate of ears, I stumbled on an excellent method of checking my accuracy without having a teacher do it for me.

It might surprise you how simple it is to do that.

It might not.

Plate Five

This plate, the first full plate featuring tone and line, took rather longer to complete.

Because it was complex, I've written it up in six installments.

The last stages aren't covered very well but I think it stands as a tutorial on how to set up and begin your Bargue drawings at least.

About the Charles Bargue Drawing Course:

Charles Bargue was an academic painter from 19th Century France. Under the auspices of art dealers Goupil and Cie (Vincent and Theo Van Gogh's employers,) and along with Jean-Leon Gerome, he produced a series of two hundred or so lithographs, reproductions of which were circulated around the ateliers of the time for students to copy. Copying these drawings is supposed to teach the student about line and tone, how to create an illusion of three dimensional form, and also to instil a sensitivity to classical beauty in painting and sculpture. These plates were almost lost, but, thanks to the efforts of Gerald Ackerman and Graydon Parrish, they have now been republished and a book version of the plates is available. It's proved popular enough to be on it's second priniting at time of writing. That has to be a good thing. Apparently the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a full original set.

The Bargue drawing course has regained popularity in recent years, and is now a standard part of the curriculum of modern academic ateliers in Europe and the US. I've got hold the book with the intention of copying a few of the plates, for much the same reason as I'm doing the old master copies. Although I doubt it's quite the same as going to an atelier, it's got to be pretty good practice all the same.

I've had a lot of unanswered questions as I've been working through the first few plates, largely because I didn't read the book carefully enough before I started. I've put up a brief run-down of what I think is the right method in a post on Bargue drawing technique from May.

A more in-depth, step by step description of my effort at the fifth plate starts here: Bargue plate five.

Follow this link for my (rather personal) initial review of the Charles Bargue Drawing Course.


Adriana Marzán said:

Hi, my name is Adriana, I am a chilean woman 62 years old. I don't speak english.
I have read your post and I loved.
My problem is this: I am study for 5 year oil paint with a young teacher that to get I learned to paint with his technique. Now, I wnt to create my style but may best, great problem is a draw. I don't know draw, I don't knoe where to begin.
If you want to know my works, I will send my blog Thank you.

Posted: 2012-05-13 23:04:09

Paul said:

Hi Adriana,

Style is best developed slowly over time I think, and comes naturally from personal, self-directed practice.

If you'd like to talk a little more about it, please email me at

Perhaps we'll need an interpreter since I don't speak Spanish!

Posted: 2012-05-14 08:53:45

Portmanteau said:

Dear Paul,

Do you have digital copies of your blown-up versions of the plates please?

If this is not possible, could you give me some advice on how I go about repeating this exercise please.

Thank you in advance

Posted: 2012-12-07 20:22:25

Carlos said:

hey paul im 16 years old and ive been trying to learn how to draw i have been watching many videos but im still not that good at drawing. You have really inspired me to just keep on practicing and hopefully i get better. Since im a beginner what are some things i could do to get on the right track because i dont even know where to begin.

Posted: 2013-01-15 22:01:18

Sorry, new comments are turned off for this post.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about it.

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