I was reading about William-Adolphe Bouguereau(1825-1905), a French salon style adademic painter somewhat reviled by the (impressionist) avant-garde in his lifetime, because of a style deemed superficial and influenced by commercial interest. In particular there is reference to the licked finish. I'm not invested in this so I don't have to take sides - I just find it personally beautiful. I have extracted some detail from one of his later works, The Wave (1896) 1:
(please right-click/view image + zoom for detail).
I find1 the woman on the painting really has a sort of photographic quality at first sight - I was mesmerized and I have to zoom on the foot or elbow to see some of the work - in particular some white paint and outline - otherwise I can't seem to read it like that; I see her body radiating a black aura and some blur for lack of better terms. So I'm trying to describe the effect and figure out how it's technically done.
How does the artist technically hide his brush strokes here and is there anything peculiar in how the flesh and light on the skin are painted in this work - is it related to the aforementioned technique or is it just "classical canons", skill and the artist's taste for the realistic genre?
1. As I have no training whatsoever with Fine Arts, I can only observe - and read.