Basic Bargue Plate Walkthrough


(Anthony Waichulis) #1

The following walk-through is adapted from the Da Vinci Initiative Lesson Plan, ”Bargue Plate”, written by Mandy Hallenius ( This same walkthrough can also be found in the Visual Language III program available for free through the Waichulis Studio Store, (

Additionally, for those interested in pursing the Bargue Drawing Course, I would recommend the book
Charles Bargue: Drawing Course (3rd Edition) by Gerald Ackerman and Graydon Parrish. The book is a complete reprint of a famous, late nineteenth century drawing course. It contains a set of almost two hundred masterful lithographs of subjects for copying by drawing students before they attempt drawing from life or nature.

The Bargue Plates are part of a French 19th century drawing course created by Jean-Leon Gerome and Charles Bargue. The course was one of the first drawing curricula ever created for the equivalent of high school students to improve their draftsmanship and visual literacy. Bargue Plates teach students proportion, value, and other essential drawing skills, and are used by contemporary artists to increase their visual literacy. Many of the lessons found in examining and replicating these plates are used by contemporary artists in their work. In fact, even artists that practiced a less objective form of visual representation, such as Pablo Picasso, spent time studying from the Bargue Plates.

MATERIALS required for a Bargue Plate drawing exercise are:

• A quality Bargue Plate reproduction (as can be found online or via the book mentioned above.)
• Drawing Paper
• Pencil (Graphite or Charcoal)
• Kneaded Erasers
• Masking Tape
• Measuring Tool (Ruler, pencil, etc…)

Click pages to Enlarge:

Here are a few additional resources on the Charles Bargue Drawing Course:

Art Renewal Center
Online Image Museum

Classical Drawing Atelier: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Studio Practice
Juliette Aristides – Watson-Guptill Publication – 2006

Lessons in Classical Drawing: Essential Techniques from Inside the Atelier
Juliette Aristides – Watson-Guptill Publication – 2011

Measuring Methods for Artists
by Larry Withers (format: DVD)

(Sandra Power) #2

Does one have to copy the plates and enlarge them or can one use the plates as found in the book?

(Anthony Waichulis) #3

People do both Sandra. We have our digitally enhanced versions larger then they appear in the book. However, there is nothing wrong with just keeping them the same size as the text. The fruits of the exercise will still hold either way. :slight_smile:

(Sandra Power) #4

Thanks for the info, Anthony. I have just received my Bargue Drawing Course, today. I also found a web site where I was able to download copies a little larger than in the book. What do you think is the ideal size? I am really excited to get started, pencils and eraser at the ready! There is something so beautiful about pencil on paper…

(Anthony Waichulis) #5

Hi Sandra, I was researching the original size and some claim the size range was around the 18x24" mark.

I just read an excerpt from Paul Foxton’s blog ( where he mentions size and he seems to be in that ballpark:

"Enlarging the Plates …I think it’s important to copy the Bargue plates full size, the size they were meant to be copied. That’s somewhere in between A3 and A2. Even if you don’t want to copy the plates actual size, they’ll need to be set up on an easel if you’re going to copy them in the recommended manner. That still means copying and printing them.

So far I’ve had laser copies done, but when they are enlarged to full size, the quality suffers quite badly. Mostly in the areas of dark tone, the sensitivity isn’t there and you get a dark blob of one overall tone instead of the variegated tones on the original plate."

For reference:

A1 594 x 841 mm 23.4 x 33.1 in
A2 420 x 594 mm 16.5 x 23.4 in
A3 297 x 420 mm 11.7 x 16.5 in
A4 210 x 297 mm 8.3 x 11.7 in

Hope that helps!

(Sandra Power) #6

Hi Anthony,
I thought that the drawings might be more beneficial if enlarged. I will definitely do that, but not as big as 18x24. I want to have them side by side, on the drawing board, using only one easel.
I have started one copy in a size just a little larger than in the book, but will get larger copies made.I am surprised how much of a challenge it is. The measuring is a bit onerous so progress is slow. I need to accept the process and not be in such a hurry.
Thank you for the information it is of great help.

(Richard Mercer) #7

What you can do is take a high-resolution digital photo of the plates from the book and that way you can enlarge them. I personally like to make them the same size so that I’m drawing in the same proportions as the book. Ideally I like to put the printout next to my drawing paper or sketchbook.