This Folio Life: Bringing Madame Bovary to life
Folio’s stunning limited edition of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary features a series of breathtaking oil paintings from French artist Nushka. In this blog, Nushka explains how she used live models in costume, including herself, to create the atmospheric scenes.
Sheri Gee, Art Director
‘I am absolutely thrilled to be part of this project – as I have said, I always wanted to illustrate a novel but never had an opportunity as suitable as this Folio Society commission before. Painting is a lonely job and it was new to me to discover all the props and communication required for an illustration commission and the team behind it, and I really enjoyed this aspect of the project.
‘I spent a whole year dedicated to Madame Bovary. I read the book many times and looked at every illustration and film of it made so far because I wanted to go beyond the standard pretty, ethereal representations of Emma. I wanted to address every part of the character and her story, not only the cheesy or cliched aspects, but also the ironic, the powerful and rebellious and the melancholic sides.
‘I always work from reference photos that I make before I start to paint. For Madame Bovary we needed costumes. I borrowed two beautiful dresses from a tailor and a theatre for fun, but then I created most of the costumes myself. Playing dressing-up with my model wasn’t enough to feel our way back to the 19th century: I had to find relevant places to shoot the pictures!
‘I chose my childhood home in the countryside to stand in for the Bovarys’ house; we shot the ball scene on a public holiday at the Grobet-Labadié museum with the kind permission of the curator; and we had to wait for rainy days in Marseille to give a Norman look to the outdoor scenes…
‘Flaubert is often quoted as saying “Madame Bovary is me”: as the illustrator, I wanted above all to honour that statement. And after all this I was starting to feel a bit like Emma myself… That’s why one of the representations of Emma is a self-portrait – and the binding image is actually a mix between my model’s face and my own.’
This blog was written by artist Nushka