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William Bouguereau

Birth name William-Adolphe Bouguereau Born November 30, 1825


La Rochelle, France Died August 19, 1905 (aged 79)
La Rochelle, France Nationality French Field Painter Movement Realism Works The
Birth of Venus
The Bohemian

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905) was a French
academic painter. William Bouguereau (French pronunciation: [vijɑ̃ bugøʁo], vill-yam boo-
guh-roe) was a traditionalist whose realistic genre paintings and mythological themes
were modern interpretations of Classical subjects with a heavy emphasis on the female
human body.

Although he created an idealized world, his almost photo-realistic style was popular with
rich art patrons. He was very famous in his time but today his subject matter and
technique receive relatively little attention compared to the popularity of the
Impressionists.

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.[12]

Bouguereau’s career was a nearly straight up ascent with hardly a setback.[17] 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”,[17] also known as a licked finish. In an 1872 letter, Degas wrote that he
strove to emulate Bouguereau’s ordered and productive working style, although with
Degas' famous trenchant wit, and the aesthetic tendencies of the Impressionists, it is
possible the statement was meant to be ironic.[18]

Bouguereau’s works were eagerly bought by American millionaires who considered him
the most important French artist of that time.[12] 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.

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 Montreal
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[citation needed]. In 1997 Mark
Borghi and Laura Borghi organized an early Internet exhibition. Bouguereau present day
supporters also include New Jersey millionaire, businessman, and art collector Fred Ross
whose internet-based Art Renewal Center heavily features Bouguereau's work as part of
their advocacy for the re-appreciation of academic art.[19] Today, over one hundred
museums throughout the world exhibit Bouguereau's works

William-Adolphe Bouguereau studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Art from 1843 and 1850
and won the Prix de Rome upon finishing his training. Upon his return to France, he
decorated several houses with the inspiration deriving from the frescoes in Pompeii.
Bouguereau was given a medal of honor at an exhibition in Paris in 1878 and again
at the 1885 Salon. As the Impressionist style was developing, he held fast to the
traditional values of French art and retained Classical, mythological, and allegorical
subject matters. Bouguereau’s paintings contained the conservative ideas that
Impressionist movement hoped to stifle.

Artnews Articles and Exhibition Information:

Guggenheim Museum: 1900: Art at the Crossroads


1900 also extends to more conservative figures such as William-Adolphe
Bouguereau, born in 1825 but still espoused by academicians at the turn of the
century, as well as to the stylistically divergen...
San Diego Museum of Art: Painting Women: Fragonard to Bouguereau
Fragonard (1732–1806) was the leading rococo painter of his generation during the
second half of the 18th century in France. His exotic landscapes inhabited by
frolicking lovers and intimate scenes of everyday life, such as A Young Girl Reading,
w...
The Dahesh Museum: Highlights from the Dahesh Museum Collection
These works, along with several others by Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier, Jules-Jean-
Antoine Lecomte de Nouy, Jean-Baptiste Vanmour, and Sir John Gilbert serve as
focal points for the exhibition. The biblical and mythological subjects favored by his...

Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Winslow Homer and the Critics: Forging a
National Art in th 1870s
One of the most visible artists in New York City, Homer exhibited frequently at
national and international venues including the National Academy of Design and the
American Society of Painters in Water Color, and at prestigious private cl...
Dahesh Museum of Art: Telling Tales I: Classical Images
Ever since antiquity, the artistic vocabulary developed by the Greeks and Romans
has remained significant for painters, sculptors and architects, across space and
time. ...
William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
"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 morning to
come...My work is not only a pleasure, it has become a necessity.
No matter how many other things I have in my life, ifI cannot give
myself to my dear painting I am miserable." --William
Bouguereau

"One has to seek Beauty and Truth, Sir! As I always say to my pupils, you
have to work to the finish. There's only one kind of painting. It is
the painting that presents the eye with perfection, the kind of
beautiful and impeccable enamel you find in Veronese and
Titian." --William Bouguereau, 1895