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William-Adolphe Bouguerea

Life and career
William-Adolphe Bouguereau was born in La Rochelle, France on November 30, 1825, into a family of wine and olive oil merchants. He seemed destined to join the family business but for the intervention of his uncle Eugène, a curate, who taught him classical and biblical subjects, and arranged for Bouguereau to go to high school. Bouguereau showed artistic talent early on and his father was convinced by a client to send him to the École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, where he won first prize in figure painting for a depiction of Saint Roch. To earn extra money, he designed labels for jams and preserves.
Through his uncle, Bouguereau was given a commission to paint portraits of parishioners, and when his aunt matched the sum he earned, Bouguereau went to Paris and became a student at the École des Beaux-Arts.To supplement his formal training in drawing, he attended anatomical dissections and studied historical costumes and archeology. He was admitted to the studio of François-Edouard Picot, where he studied painting in the academic style. Academic painting placed the highest status on historical and mythological subjects and Bouguereau won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1850, with his Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes. His reward was a stay at the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy, where in addition to formal lessons he was able to study first-hand the Renaissance artists and their masterpieces.
Bouguereau, completely in tune with the traditional Academic style, exhibited at the annual exhibitions of the Paris Salon for his entire working life.
Detail from The Birth of Venus by Bouguereau.
An early reviewer stated, “M. Bouguereau has a natural instinct and knowledge of contour. The eurythmie of the human body preoccupies him, and in recalling the happy results which, in this genre, the ancients and the artists of the sixteenth century arrived at, one can only congratulate M. Bouguereau in attempting to follow in their footsteps…Raphael was inspired by the ancients…and no one accused him of not being original.?br />Raphael was a favorite of Bouguereau and he took this review as a high compliment. He had fulfilled one of the requirements of the Prix de Rome by completing a old-master copy of Raphael’s The Triumph of Galatea. In many of his works, he followed the same classical approach to composition, form, and subject matter. Bouguereau's graceful portraits of ladies were very charming, partly because he could beautify a sitter while also retaining his likeness.
In 1856, he married Marie-Nelly Monchablon and subsequently had five children. By the late 1850s, he made strong connections with art dealers, particularly Paul Durand-Ruel (later the champion of the Impressionists), who helped clients buy paintings from artists who exhibited at the Salons. The Salons annually drew over 300,000 people, thereby providing valuable exposure to exhibited artists. Bouguereau’s fame extended to England by the 1860s and then he bought a large house and studio in Montparnasse with his growing income.
Bouguereau was a staunch traditionalist whose realistic genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects—both pagan and Christian—with a heavy concentration on the female human body. Although he created an idealized world, his almost photo-realistic style brought to life his goddesses, nymphs, bathers, shepherdesses, and madonnas in a way which was very appealing to rich art patrons of his time. Some critics, however, preferred the honesty of Jean-François Millet’s truer-to-life depiction of hard-working farmers and laborers.
Bouguereau employed traditional methods of working up a painting, including detailed pencil studies and oil sketches, and his careful method resulted in a pleasing and accurate rendering of the human form. His painting of skin, hands, and feet was particularly admired. He also used some of the religious and erotic symbolism of the Old Masters, such as the “broken pitcher?which connoted lost innocence.
One of the rewards of staying within the Academic style and doing well in the Salons was receiving commissions to decorate private houses, public buildings, and churches. As was typical of these commissions, sometimes Bouguereau would paint in his own style, and other times he had to conform to an existing group style. Early on, Bouguereau was commissioned in all three venues, which added enormously to his prestige and fame. He also made reductions of his public paintings for sale to patrons, of which The Annunciation (1888) is an example. He was also a successful portrait painter though many of his paintings of wealthy patrons still remain in private hands.
Bouguereau steadily gained the honors of the Academy, reaching Life Member in 1876, and Commander of the Legion of Honor and Grand Medal of Honor in 1885. He began to teach drawing at the Académie Julian in 1875, a co-ed art institution independent of the École des Beaux-Arts, with no entrance exams and with nominal fees.
In 1877, both his wife and infant son died. At a rather advanced age, Bouguereau was married for the second time in 1896, to fellow artist Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau, one of his pupils. He also used his influence to open many French art institutions to women for the first time, including the Académie française.
Near the end of his life he described his love of his art, “Each day I go to my studio full of joy; in the evening when obliged to stop because of darkness I can scarcely wait for the next morning to come…if I cannot give myself to my dear painting I am miserable? He painted eight hundred and twenty-six paintings.
In the spring of 1905, Bouguereau's house and studio in Paris were robbed. On August 19, 1905, Bouguereau died in La Rochelle at age 79 from heart disease.
Fame and fall
In his own time, Bouguereau was considered to be one of the greatest painters in the world by the Academic art community, and simultaneously he was reviled by the avant-garde. He also gained wide fame in Belgium, Holland, Spain, and in the United States, and commanded high prices.Bouguereau’s career was a nearly straight up ascent with hardly a setback. To many, he epitomized taste and refinement, and a respect for tradition. To others, he was a competent technician stuck in the past. Degas and his associates used the term “Bouguereauté?in a derogatory manner to describe any artistic style reliant on “slick and artificial surfaces? also known as a licked finish. In 1900, Degas and Monet reportedly named him as most likely to be remembered as the greatest 19th-century French painter by the year 2000, according to chairman Fred Ross of the Art Renewal Center ?although with Degas' famous trenchant wit, and the aesthetic tendencies of the two Impressionists, it is possible the statement was meant as an ironic comment on the taste of the future public.Bouguereau’s works were eagerly bought by American millionaires who considered him the most important French artist of that time. But after 1920, Bouguereau fell into disrepute, due in part to changing tastes and partly to his staunch opposition to the Impressionists who were finally gaining acceptance. For decades following, his name was not even mentioned in encyclopedias.His name Sources on his full name are contradictory: some give William-Adolphe Bouguereau (composed name), William Adolphe Bouguereau (usual and civil-only names according to the French tradition), while others give Adolphe William Bouguereau (with Adolphe as the usual name). However, the artist used to sign his works simply as William Bouguereau (hinting "William" was his given name, whatever the order), or more precisely as "W.Bouguereau.date" (French alphabet) and later as "W-BOVGVEREAV-date" (Latin alphabet).
Legacy
In 1974, the New York Cultural Center staged a show of Bouguereau's work as a curiosity. In 1984, the Borghi Gallery hosted the commercial show of his 23 oil paintings and 1 drawing. In the same year a major exhibition was organized by the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, in Canada. The exhibition opened at the Musée du Petit-Palais, in Paris, traveled to The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, and concluded in Montréal. This was the beginning of renewal of interest about Bouguereau. In 1997 Mark Borghi and Laura Borghi organized an early Internet exhibition.In 2000, the Art Renewal Center was founded by Fred Ross and like-minded artists and collectors to oppose Modernism and advocate earlier values of art. They particularly champion the work of Bouguereau, whom Ross considers to be "deserving of the highest accolades in the art world."Today, over one hundred museums throughout the world exhibit Bouguereau's works.
References
* Albert Boime: The Academy and French Painting in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1971).
* Aleska Celebonovic: Peinture kitsch ou réalisme bourgeois, l'art pompier dans le monde. Paris: Seghers, 1974.
* Art Pompier: Anti-Impressionism. New York: The Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, 1974.
* Mario Amaya (Forward), Robert Isaacson (catalogue and selection): William Adolphe Bouguereau. New York: New York Cultural Center, 1974.
* John Russell: Art: Cultural Center Honors Bouguereau. In New York Times, 1974.
* Louise d 'Argencourt and Douglas Druick: The Other Nineteenth Century. Ottawa: The National Gallery of Canada, 1978.
* James Harding: Les peintres pompiers. Paris: Flammarion, 1980.
* "The Bouguereau Market". The Art newsletter. January 6, 1981. pp. 6-8.
* Louise d'Argencourt and Mark Steven Walker: William Bouguereau. Montreal, Canada: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1984.
* Robert Rosenblum and H.W. Janson: 19th Century Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1984.
* Michael Gibson: Bouguereau's "Photo-Idealism". In International Herald Tribune, 1984.
* Grace Glueck: To Bouguereau, Art Was Strictly "The Beautiful. In The New York Times, 1985.
* Cécile Ritzenthaler: L'école des beaux art du XIXe siècle. édition Mayer, 1987
* Exhibition catalogue William Adolphe Bouguereau, L'Art Pompier. Borghi & Co., New York, 1991.

A calling 1

A calling 1

A calling 2

A calling 2

A Dream of Spring

A Dream of Spring

A la Fontaine

A la Fontaine

A Portrait of Amelina Dufaud Bouguereau

A Portrait of Amelina Dufaud Bouguereau

A Portrait of Eugène Bouguereau

A Portrait of Eugène Bouguereau

A Portrait of Geneviève Bouguereau

A Portrait of Geneviève Bouguereau

A Portrait of Léonie Bouguereau

A Portrait of Léonie Bouguereau

A Soul in Heaven

A Soul in Heaven

Admiration

Admiration

After the Bath 1

After the Bath 1

After the Bath 2

After the Bath 2

Apples

Apples

Asleep at last

Asleep at last

At the Edge of the Brook

At the Edge of the Brook

Au Bord du Ruisseau

Au Bord du Ruisseau

Bacchante 1

Bacchante 1

Bacchante 2

Bacchante 2

Baigneuse Accroupie

Baigneuse Accroupie

Baigneuse

Baigneuse

Before the Bath

Before the Bath

Bergère

Bergère

Biblis

Biblis

Big sister

Big sister

Birth of Venus

Birth of Venus

Bohemienne au Tambour de Basque

Bohemienne au Tambour de Basque

Breton Brother and Sister

Breton Brother and Sister

Brother and Sister

Brother and Sister

Calinerie

Calinerie

Charity 1

Charity 1

Charity 2

Charity 2

Child braiding a crown

Child braiding a crown

Compassion!

Compassion!

Dante and Virgil in Hell

Dante and Virgil in Hell

Dear Bird

Dear Bird

Donkey Ride

Donkey Ride

Douleur d'amour

Douleur d'amour

En Penitence

En Penitence

Far from home

Far from home

Far niente

Far niente

Flagellation de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ

Flagellation de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ

Flora and Zephyr

Flora and Zephyr

Homer and his Guide

Homer and his Guide

Idylle Enfantine

Idylle Enfantine

Innocence

Innocence

Inspiration

Inspiration

Irène

Irène

Italian Girl Drawing Water

Italian Girl Drawing Water

Jeune Bergere 1

Jeune Bergere 1

Jeune Bergere 2

Jeune Bergere 2

Jeune Fille Allant à la Fontaine

Jeune Fille Allant à la Fontaine

Jeunes Bohemiennes

Jeunes Bohemiennes

Jeunesse

Jeunesse

L'Amour A L'Epine

L'Amour A L'Epine

L'Amour au Papillon

L'Amour au Papillon

L'Amour et Psyche, enfants

L'Amour et Psyche, enfants

L'Amour s'envole

L'Amour s'envole

L'Art et la Litterature

L'Art et la Litterature

L'Aurore

L'Aurore

L'Etoile Perdue

L'Etoile Perdue

L'idylle

L'idylle

La Bourrique

La Bourrique

La couturière

La couturière

La Jeunesse de Bacchus

La Jeunesse de Bacchus

La révérence

La révérence

La soupe

La soupe

Lady Maxwell

Lady Maxwell

Lambs

Lambs

Laurel Branch

Laurel Branch

Le Baiser

Le Baiser

Le Bohemienne

Le Bohemienne

Le Crepuscule

Le Crepuscule

Le Gouter

Le Gouter

Le Guepier

Le Guepier

Le jour des morts

Le jour des morts

Le Jour

Le Jour

Le Lever

Le Lever

Le Repos

Le Repos

Les Deux Baigneuses

Les Deux Baigneuses

Les Noisettes

Les Noisettes

Little brother 1

Little brother 1

Little brother 2

Little brother 2

Little girl holding apples in her hands

Little girl holding apples in her hands

Little girl with a bouquet

Little girl with a bouquet

Little Thief

Little Thief

Little Thieves

Little Thieves

Love on the Look Out

Love on the Look Out

Lullaby

Lullaby

Madame la Comtesse de Cambaceres

Madame la Comtesse de Cambaceres

Madonna of the Roses

Madonna of the Roses

Marguerite

Marguerite

Maternal Admiration

Maternal Admiration

Meditation

Meditation

Mignon

Mignon

Modesty

Modesty

Not too Much to Carry

Not too Much to Carry

Nymphes et Satyre

Nymphes et Satyre

On the Rocky Beach

On the Rocky Beach

Paquerettes

Paquerettes

Parure des Champs

Parure des Champs

Pastoral

Pastoral

Pastourelle

Pastourelle

Petite Bergere

Petite Bergere

Petite boudeuse 1

Petite boudeuse 1

Petite boudeuse 2

Petite boudeuse 2

Petite mendiante

Petite mendiante

Petites mendiantes

Petites mendiantes

Pietà

Pietà

Plums

Plums

Portrait of a young girl

Portrait of a young girl

Portrait of Gabrielle Cot

Portrait of Gabrielle Cot

Portrait of Genevieve Celine

Portrait of Genevieve Celine

Portrait of Madame Olry-Roederer

Portrait of Madame Olry-Roederer

Portrait of Miss Brissac

Portrait of Miss Brissac

Portrait of Miss Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau

Portrait of Miss Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau

Psyche and Cupid

Psyche and Cupid

Psyche

Psyche

Reflexion

Reflexion

Regina Angelorum

Regina Angelorum

Returned from the fields

Returned from the fields

Returned from the market

Returned from the market

Revery

Revery

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Spring Breeze

Spring Breeze

Springtime

Springtime

The Assault

The Assault

The Broken Pitcher

The Broken Pitcher

The Bunch of Grapes

The Bunch of Grapes

The Crab

The Crab

The Dance

The Dance

The difficult lesson

The difficult lesson

The First Mourning

The First Mourning

The Ford

The Ford

The Grape Picker

The Grape Picker

The Harvester

The Harvester

The Haymaker

The Haymaker

The Heart's Awakening

The Heart's Awakening

The Holy Family

The Holy Family

The Joys of Motherhood (Girl Tickling a Child)

The Joys of Motherhood (Girl Tickling a Child)

The Knitter 1

The Knitter 1

The Knitter 2

The Knitter 2

The Little Knitter 1

The Little Knitter 1

The Little Knitter 2

The Little Knitter 2

The Motherland

The Motherland

The Newborn Lamb

The Newborn Lamb

The Nymphaeum

The Nymphaeum

The Prayer

The Prayer

The Prisoner

The Prisoner

The Rapture of Psyche

The Rapture of Psyche

The Remorse of Orestes

The Remorse of Orestes

The Seashell

The Seashell

The Seated Madonna

The Seated Madonna

The Secret

The Secret

The Spinner

The Spinner

The Storm

The Storm

The Thank Offering

The Thank Offering

The Virgin of Consolation

The Virgin of Consolation

The Virgin of the Lilies

The Virgin of the Lilies

The Virgin with Angels

The Virgin with Angels

The Virgin, the Baby Jesus and Saint John the Baptist 1

The Virgin, the Baby Jesus and Saint John the Baptist 1

The Virgin, the Baby Jesus and Saint John the Baptist 2

The Virgin, the Baby Jesus and Saint John the Baptist 2

The Wave

The Wave

Thirst

Thirst

Two Sisters 1

Two Sisters 1

Two Sisters 2

Two Sisters 2

Un moment de repos

Un moment de repos

Virgin and Lamb

Virgin and Lamb

Waiting

Waiting

Wet Cupid

Wet Cupid

Work Interrupted

Work Interrupted

Young girl crocheting

Young girl crocheting

Young Girl Defending herself against Cupid

Young Girl Defending herself against Cupid

Young Priestess

Young Priestess

Young woman contemplating two embracing children

Young woman contemplating two embracing children

Young Worker

Young Worker

Yvonette

Yvonette

Yvonne

Yvonne

Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes

Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes