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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 October 2011
I bought this somewhat nervously - It seemed a tad expensive for a paperback book about which I knew very little. But after some research I decided I was just going to have to grit my teeth and get a copy.

I'm glad I did!

Some people may find the term 'Drawing Course' a little bit misleading - there's no real textual 'instruction' in the original course at all. The method is essentially to learn by copying, and copying, and copying. But this isn't as dull as it may sound, because a lot of thought has clearly gone into the progression of drawings to copy, and they're generally so interesting that copying them is no real hardship at all.

While the original course has no text-based instruction, this edition does provide some useful hints in an early chapter. There are also sections about the history of the course, and appendixes on the life of Bargue (including what seems to be a pretty comprehensive collection of images of his work). Also - tucked away in Appendix 2 where one might easily miss it - there's some instruction on 'sight size' drawing technique.

The main bulk of the book contains the plates which form the 'course' itself. I've uploaded a video - a sort of 'virtual browse' to give you some idea what exactly you'll be buying if you go for this book. To be honest, I think it would be a good buy even if you didn't follow the course - if you just like looking at good drawings, or need something to spark your enthusiasm to pick up a pencil and do your own thing.

I can only find one fault with this book: All the prints are reproduced about about half their original size. While this may not matter much in the early line drawings, it seems generally agreed that this will make it impossible to properly copy the more finished works. People who've used the course (and posted blogs about it) all seem to agree with this. Personally, I'm still undecided, but I've already begun to *consider* doing the unthinkable - disassembling my expensive book so I can more easily use (or enlarge) the plates.

I considered making this a 4-star review because of the reduced size of the prints, but I suppose that a FULL sized edition would have been a) impossibly unwieldy, and b) breathtakingly expensive.

Anyway... this book cost a huge chunk of my tiny income, but I don't regret my purchase in the slightest. Van Gogh worked through this course (more than once). So did Picasso. I certainly don't want to draw like either of them, but it's nice to know I'm following in famous footsteps!
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on 9 December 2011
This book is now my most treasured ever possession. At a time when art was properly directed and taught as a disciplin all the old master's learned and honed their skills this way. Like learning a language art has a logistical map which can be formulated and learned. Unfortuantly today there are students leaving art school who are incapable of drawing as the basics have been neglected. I wholly reccommend this inspiring edition to those who long for the Grecian decorative images of pure aesthetics and beauty. If you follow the programme you can only advance. These exercises are not to be rushed as this is an art and needs to be respected. If you have always longed for the pleasure of being able to draw exactly what you see then this IS the book to buy and you should need no other. However there is a downside and that is before you attempt the exercises you must first get a suitable digital enlargement from which to copy. Each drawing should take atleast 2 weeks to complete correctly and to establish absolute accuracy.
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on 7 December 2009
This has to be one of the best books available for serious would-be artists. There is no substitute for practice but this book shows what is important and how to go about using a technique that has stood the test of time. A must for Art students and artists who want to improve.

Brian ClarkeDrawing Course
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on 26 December 2011
I had been interested in this book for a long time, having read numerous reviews and seen excerpts. However,the price of the book was rather off putting given that this is a paperback. I asked for this book as a Christmas present and I have not been disappointed. This is a book for someone who is really very serious about improving their skills. The drawings are lovely and makes you want to have a go and try to emulate their quality. This is not a step by step book, but rather one that encourages keen observation and lots of hard work. If you are truly committed to becoming a great artist, there are no shortcuts and hard work and perseverance are a must. This book will help hold your hand and guide you throught the excercises tried and tested by many successful artists throught the years. I am very glad it is now part of my book collection and I think it will become a treasured companion over the years.
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on 1 September 2011
There are issues with the book, in particular that you have to spend money copying plates and enlarging to a bigger size if you are serious about it; but for all that, I am very grateful to the editors for making this collection of plates available to a modern audience. There is a very useful introduction on how to use the book, they recommend using a sight-size approach. The plates themserves are really beautiful, an inspiration, as well as a classroom in a book.
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on 11 March 2013
Apparently Van Gogh used this book! I am not kidding I read it somewhere. Okay so it wont mean you chop off some of your ear to prove your love to someone in a brothel. But if it made Van Gogh tap into that etheral thing that is art and being a great master what will it do for you?

Granted he spent two years going over the book and copying and drawing before originating. And at the price of the book you are going to be dedicated. Not everyone has to go to art school so if you can afford the book. Get it. I have dedicated one sketch book so far to using this book and experimentingto get my skills up to scratch.

So yes I would get it. I am not sure if it is a book that I would get randomly for someone who likes drawing or wants to go to art school. I think they would ask for something else. But hey you are stuck and they are serious about a career or just pleasure in drawing. Take the risk and remind them Van Gogh used it...
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on 24 March 2013
This book is based on a set of plates you had to copy, in the first half on the nineteenth century, before you would even be considered for entry into the art academies, if I understood correctly. Ah, the good old times.

I'm regularly doing age out of this book now and it is amazing practice! The plates start simple and get more and more complex as you proceed. The huge value is in how it shows you how artists from that era simplified forms. The plates were also meant to teach the students about beauty. First half of the nineteenth century they drew from casts a lot, Greek and Roman statues which are already simplified idealized portrayals of humans.

It is by no means the only way to idealize nature, and other artists have found other ways in recent times, but this book is a great place to start. It should be required practice for every artist before they ever even attempt conceptual work.

For me it is also a great way to start the day by doing some warm-up drawings, a page from the book.

Every artist should do the exercises in this book at least once in their life.
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on 15 May 2014
This is a historic book (the other reviewers are right that van Gogh used it, and this is recorded in his letters) but I believe it is more than that. Like the other reviewers I have taken this book at face value as well as a historic record and used it as a learning tool. I think you do need to use other sources - life drawing of course, but anatomy as well - but why I wanted to write this review was because I've just returned to the book six years after my art school training and see more in it than ever.

The simplicity of the system combined with the extraordinary elegance of the drawing strikes me even more coming back to it. The first part particularly (and wordlessly) provides so much information that you can learn multiple things from the same plates. For example there is a world of information about proportion and perspective in the use of the delicate construction lines in the first few plates. There is anatomical information implied by the use of one light source and the shapes of the shadows. There is information about idealisation, and how to depart from that idealisation in different examples. The examples work through just enough angles so that the casts in the first section are drawn from side, above and below. However this is done with great restraint - the information is there but you do have to find it, just as you do in life.

The same is true of the third part where Bargue creates idealised poses using contour, with subtle use of line to suggest anatomical information.

So I'd suggest using this book not just for copying but reflection on your copying as you're doing it. If you notice and learn the shapes and proportions you'll find they relate to the shapes and proportions you'll see in the human bodies around you and which all of us are.

I suspect that in another five years I'll find other things in this extraordinary work - and I haven't really studied part 3 closely yet, which from van Gogh's letters I read was the part he felt he would like to work through again just before he died.

To summarise, this book seems to me to offer not only practicalities but a philosophy. It's beyond criticism.

(Some technical info: This is not a facsimile but a guide to Bargue's course, reproduced under the size it was originally, with all of his original plates reproduced at full page size. The original was a portfolio of plates designed to be taken out and shown to classes - a kind of Victorian powerpoint! I don't find this reduction so significant. Only a few of the plates in the second section are reproduced even at full page size. This is because these are exemplary works chosen by Bargue, not by him. You can now easily find equally fine work online which wasn't the case in Bargue's day when he had to make a selection - tastes change and some of these look sentimental to the modern eye. The commentaries by the modern editors are good, and there are reproductions of Bargue's paintings which, given how little value is placed on him today as an artist, arguably correctly, is useful since his work is quite hard to find).
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I am using this course in my studies. I am studying classical realist portraiture, and have been working my way through Bargue's fiendishly difficult drawings. as other reviews have pointed out, this is not a course in the modern sense. It was written in the 1860s, to provide materials from which art students could learn their trade. I can attest that it does work. At the very least, it will teach you to pay attention to detail, and especially proportion. When you have spent 30-40 hours reproducing just one of the "beginner's" drawings at the start of the course, you will understand exactly what attention to detail means.

Classical realism had been battered into a sorry-looking decline in the last century, but its fledgling resurgence in the 1980s or there abouts, partly based on taking a fresh look at this course, has seen Bargue's legacy live on. If you are serious about learning the techniques of the great masters - about learning to become an artist armed with the traditional artist's skills, then I recommend you get a copy of this book. It won't magically turn you into an artist, but it will do you no harm at all. That said, you will derive far greater benefit from it if you attend classes that use the course, where instructors can steer your study and hone your skills. To this end, I would recommend enrolling at a specialist art academy.
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on 9 October 2013
This is a good buy if you are really earnest about figure work. It will help with line, proportions and form and provide invaluable practice to those who find it difficult to get to a regular class. Books on their own will not teach you all you need to know about drawing, so it is extremely important to back up this marvelous practice study with real life drawing and some sound drawing classes run by an artist who really understands interpretation and will challenge you out of your 'bad habits'!
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