Francois Bard’s Simplicity
The work of French painter Francois Bard often obscures or omits the faces of his subjects, and instead focuses on the subject’s clothing. This allows him to create more subtle portraits of his subjects because instead of focusing on the face that the subject presents to the world, he chooses to show how the marks the world has left on the subject and their clothing. In this painting, Bard focuses on a pair of well-worn converse shoes that reveal more about their owner than any full-body portrait possibly could.
Bard’s realist style allows him to imbue the painting with incredibly lifelike details. These details create a visually immersive experience that allows the viewer a brief, but telling view into the life of the subject. The scuffed rubber soles and dirty white laces seem to indicate that the owner of the the shoes is not concerned with keeping them in pristine condition or with making any kind of fashion statement, but simply uses them for utilitarian purposes. This detail, along with the sloppy double-knot of the laces seems to indicate that the wearer is a child. Rather than preserving the shoes and keeping them clean, the child simply uses them for playing around. This gives the painting a sense of universality by evoking blissful childhood memories of fun and playfulness in which cleanliness is of little concern.
By making these shoes the sole focus of the painting Bard creates a sense of wistful yearning for such simple days in one’s life. As life goes on, the carelessness of childhood slowly but surely fades away, and the clothing one wears becomes more and more serious and well-maintained. There are some instances in adult life when shoes and clothing transcend image and simply become items that aid us in living, such as hiking boots or athletic clothing, but in adult life, such instances are almost always dampened by lingering feelings of responsibility and obligation. With this painting, Bard reminds us that clothing doesn’t always have to be about projecting maturity, professionalism or wealth, it can simply serve purpose of getting you where you need to go so that you can more fully enjoy the good times in life.
What do you think of this painting?
Such an interesting analysis of this piece. I also think that by only focusing on the clothing or shoes of his subjects, Bard invites us to form out own universal narratives about them. The “faceless” subject I think also possesses a narrative of their own that is not immediately visible to the viewer.