Oscar Baechler
Art History, Graphic Arts, Visual Arts
Material Type:
College / Upper Division
19th Century, Art, Bargue, Charcoal, Drawing, France, Painting, Realism, Realist, Rendering
Creative Commons Attribution
Media Formats:
eBook, Video

Copying Plates from the Charles Bargue Drawing Course


Charles Bargue Drawing Course introduction

The Charles Bargue Drawing Course was a highly influential guide to art instruction in the 19th century, which has recently returned to prominence in the Realist painting movement. 

This module introduces students to the fundamental drawing skills covered in the Charles Bargue Drawing Course, and leads them through the process of completing a Bargue plate copy. 

I recommend a first hour spent on the lay-in stage, with three 10 minute attempts to figure out the basic placement,  plus a half-hour on a committed plate after that. 

The finished rendering should get at least an hour depending on the cast. 

Charles Bargue Plate Copying


The purpose of copying plates in the Charles Bargue Drawing Course is to develop an objective, analytical approach to drawing, in which you attempt to capture a realistic duplication of your source. Tools like sight-size, plumb lines, value matching, and simplifying a lay-in into points/lines/planes are invaluable to the realist painter. The Charles Bargue Drawing Course is also a fascinating historical artifact from the Academy systems of the 19th century art world. 


The Charles Bargue Drawing Course can be read online here.

An example video for copying a Bargue plate can be found here.


  • Box drawing: Using a starting measure of the X and Y axis of your subject, allowing for future subdivision and consistent proportions. 
  • Sight-size: Using a strict reproduction of the source material on the left or right of your rendering surface to objectively align features. 
  • Plumb lines: use straight horizontal and vertical X and Y axis lines to guarantee the placement of landmarks. 
  • Point/Line/Plane drawing: Using simplified straight lines between landmarks to construct a scaffolding of early lines for your drawing. 



Using an enlarged print from the Charles Bargue Drawing Course (11x17 or 18x24 preferably), copy a bargue plate. 

Criteria for Success

A Bargue plate is first concerned with accurate placement. Your lay-in should approximate the major landmarks of a cast. If the initial lay-in failed, it is better to start over and continue focusing on accuracy. 


50 points total.

  • 20 points: a page of notes on the techniques outlined in the Charles Bargue Drawing Course.
  • 15 points: An approximate line drawing for the start of a Bargue plate.
  • 15 points: A finished rendering of your Bargue plate.