Bargue Drawing



Learning to see in two dimensions

The student in a classical atelier starts by copying two dimensional references. Since the 19th century the ateliers use the references by Charles Bargue. This exercise can easily be done at home – even in a very small room and with a regular room light.

Needed Materials:

  • A large board with a smooth finish
    (should be large enough to tape two sheets of paper – the reference and the drawing paper – besides each other)
  • Sheet of paper – regular printer paper should be sufficient for this exercise
  • The printed reference (available here as a digital download package)
  • Artists tape*
  • Pencils in different grades* (2H, HB & 2B are sufficient)
  • Kneaded eraser*
  • Measuring device such as a knitting needle or a thread
  • Ruler (only for the initial preparatory steps)


As a righty you need to tape the printed reference on the left hand side of your panel with artists tape. Your drawing paper should sit on the right hand side. As a lefty you do it vice versa.

Now make a straight vertical line through the middle of your reference. If your reference is a symmetrical object the middle is easy to determine – if you have a non-symmetrical reference just estimate a middle. Also draw a straight vertical line through your drawing paper. Don’t press too hard with the pencil since you need to erase these guidelines later!

Make two horizontal lines across the reference and your drawing paper – one on the topmost point of your reference and one on the bottommost point.

These is the initial stage of making a Bargue drawing – guidelines. Now you can start!

Now hold your measurung device in front of your reference, squint one eye and measure from the middle line to the leftmost point (see the following picture; in this example a thread was used). Keep this distance and hold the measuring device on the middle line of your drawing paper. Slightly draw a line where you determine the width. Double check by doing this process again. If you did not transfer the distance correctly, just erase your first estimation and make a better one.


Do these steps with the most prominent points of the reference. Always double check. This process seems to be tedious but it is worth it. It is easier to change things in the beginning stages of the drawing than towards the end so double checking is crucial.

After you have determined a couple of points, connect them with straight lines to have a simplified image of your reference. The Bargue plates show how this is meant exactly.

You can now dispense your measuring device since it is the learning-to-see what you are after…

Now the fun part starts: make your drawing match as perfect as possible to the reference just by using your eye! Lines that you are not sure about should be made lightly. Work as hard as you can. It is not unusual if you need a couple of hours on this drawing. The more you practise the faster you get.

See the steps of this process:

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2 thoughts on “Bargue Drawing”

  1. This is super. I can not afford to go to the Bargue School in Toronto or anywhere else at this point and I wish this formal approach was part of my Art education.


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