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William-Adolphe Bouguereau


 Painting - Winter by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


 Painting - Autumn by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


 Painting - Summer by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


 Painting - Spring by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Bunch Of Grapes by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Bunch Of Grapes

William Adolphe Bouguereau Painting - A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Virgin And Child by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Virgin And Child

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Summer by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Nymphs And Satyr by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Nymphs And Satyr

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Virgin Of The Lilies by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Virgin Of The Lilies

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Nymphaeum by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Nymphaeum

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Priestess Of Bacchus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Priestess Of Bacchus

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Oranges by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Wounds Of Love by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Wounds Of Love

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Lost Pleiad by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Lost Pleiad

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - A Childhood Idyll by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

A Childhood Idyll

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Study Of A Womans Head by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Study Of A Womans Head

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Orphan By The Fountain by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Orphan By The Fountain

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Thank Offering by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Thank Offering

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Admiration by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Wave by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Wave

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Work Interrupted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Work Interrupted

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Spring Breeze by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Spring Breeze

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Nature Fan Girl With A Child by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Nature Fan Girl With A Child

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Charity by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William Adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Hearts Awakening by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Hearts Awakening

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Cup Of Milk by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Cup Of Milk

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Woman Contemplating Her Infant Son by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Woman Contemplating Her Infant Son

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Little Girl by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Little Girl

William Adolphe Bouguereau Birth Painting - The Birth Of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Birth Of Venus

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Byblis by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Girl With A Pomegranate by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Girl With A Pomegranate

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Madonna Of The Roses by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Madonna Of The Roses

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Elegy by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Whisperings Of Love by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Whisperings Of Love

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Returned From The Market by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Returned From The Market

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Le Crabe by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Le Crabe

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Taste by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Taste

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Reve De Printemps by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Reve De Printemps

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Bathers by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Bathers

William Adolphe Bouguereau Psyche Painting - The Abduction Of Psyche by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Abduction Of Psyche

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Bather by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Fraternal Love by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Fraternal Love

William Adolphe Bouguereau Day Painting - Day by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Bather by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Bather

William Adolphe Bouguereau Temptation Painting - Temptation by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - La Perle by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

La Perle

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Elder Sister by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Elder Sister

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Bather by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Mailice by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Laurel Branch by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Laurel Branch

William Adolphe Bouguereau The Virgin With Angels Painting - The Virgin With Angels by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Virgin With Angels

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Returned From The Market by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Returned From The Market

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Little Shepherdess by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Little Shepherdess

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Yvonne On The Doorstep by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Yvonne On The Doorstep

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Aurora by William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Studio


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Breton Brother And Sister by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Breton Brother And Sister

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Young Mother Gazing At Her Child by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Young Mother Gazing At Her Child

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Gabrielle Cot by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Gabrielle Cot

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Frileuse by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Head Of A Little Girl. Study by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Head Of A Little Girl. Study

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The First Mourning by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The First Mourning

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Lemon by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Lemon

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Young Girls Of Fouesnant Returning From Market by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Young Girls Of Fouesnant Returning From Market

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Moissonneuse by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - At The Seaside by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

At The Seaside

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Love On The Look Out by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Love On The Look Out

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Sound Of The Sea by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Sound Of The Sea

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Convoitise by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Mimosa by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Horseback Ride by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Horseback Ride

William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - Disdain by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


William-adolphe Bouguereau Painting - The Shepherdess by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Shepherdess

Orestes Pursued by the Furies

The Virgin, Jesus and Saint John Baptist

Mother and Children

The Youth of Bacchus

Homer and his Guide

Dante and Virgil in Hell

Hellenica World, Paintings, Drawings

Love takes off

Virgin and Chil

Hellenica World, Paintings, Drawings

Seated Nude

The Prayer

Young freezing girl

Arion on a Sea Horse

Soul being brought to Heaven


The Bohemian

Portrait of Madame la Comtesse de Cambaceres

Child at Bath

Cupid and psyche as Children

Fraternal Love (Virgin and Child with Young Saint John)


Evening Mood

The Day of the Dead

The Virgin With Angels



Song of the Angels

Premières caresses

A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros

After the Bath

After the Bath

At the Edge of the Brook








Flora And Zephyr

Love on the Look Out

Small beggars


Return from the Harvest

The Return of Spring

Study - Head Of A Little Girl

The Dance

The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Horseback Ride

The Madonna of the Roses

The Motherland


Tobias Saying Good-Bye to his Father

Work Interrupted

Young Woman Contemplating Two Embracing Children


Wounds of Love (Blessures d'Amour)

Priestess of Bacchus


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William-Adolphe Bouguereau - The Wave by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Wave

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French: [buɡ(ə)ʁo], or roughly BOO (guh) ROW), November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905, was a French academic painter and traditionalist. In his realistic genre paintings he used mythological themes, making modern interpretations of classical subjects, with an emphasis on the female human body. During his life he enjoyed significant popularity in France and the United States, was given numerous official honors, and received top prices for his work. As the quintessential salon painter of his generation, he was reviled by the Impressionist avant-garde. By the early twentieth century, Bouguereau and his art fell out of favor with the public, due in part to changing tastes. In the 1980s, a revival of interest in figure painting led to a rediscovery of Bouguereau and his work. Throughout the course of his life, Bouguereau executed 822 known finished paintings, although the whereabouts of many are still unknown.

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 Roman Catholic priest, who taught him classical and Biblical subjects, and arranged for Bouguereau to go to high school. He showed artistic talent early on. 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.[4]

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.[4] 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 at age 26 in 1850,[5] with his Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes.[6] His reward was a year 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, as well as Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities.[5] He also studied classical literature, which influenced his subject choice for the rest of his career.[5]

The Wave (1896)

Bouguereau, painting within the traditional academic style, exhibited at the annual exhibitions of the Paris Salon for his entire working life. 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."[7]

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 Romeby completing an 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.[8] Bouguereau's graceful portraits of women were considered very charming, partly because he could beautify a sitter while also retaining her likeness.

In 1856, he married Marie-Nelly Monchablon and subsequently had five children. By the late 1850s, he had 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.[9] Thanks to Paul Durand-Ruel, Bouguereau met Hugues Merle, who later often was compared to Bouguereau. The Salons annually drew over 300,000 people, providing valuable exposure to exhibited artists.[10] Bouguereau’s fame extended to England by the 1860s, and he bought a large house and studio in Montparnasse with his growing income.[11]

The Birth of Venus (1879)

Bouguereau was a staunch traditionalist whose genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects, both pagan and Christian, with a concentration on the naked female human body. The idealized world of his paintings brought to life goddesses, nymphs, bathers, shepherdesses, and madonnas in a way that appealed to wealthy art patrons of the era.

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.[12] He also used some of the religious and erotic symbolism of the Old Masters, such as the "broken pitcher" which connoted lost innocence.[13]

Bouguereau received many commissions to decorate private houses, public buildings, and churches. As was typical of such commissions, Bouguereau would sometimes paint in his own style, and at other times 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.[14] He was also a successful portrait painter and many of his paintings of wealthy patrons remain in private hands.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] He 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."[19] He painted 826 paintings.

In the spring of 1905, Bouguereau's house and studio in Paris were burgled. On August 19, 1905, Bouguereau died in La Rochelle at the age of 79 from heart disease.

Fame, fall, and rise
The Young Shepherdess (1885)

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, the Netherlands, Spain, and in the United States, and commanded high prices.[15]

Bouguereau’s career was close to a direct ascent with hardly a setback.[20] 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",[20] 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.[15] Paul Gauguin loathed him, rating him a round zero in Racontars de Rapin and later describing in Avant et après (Intimate Journals) the single occasion when Bouguereau made him smile on coming across a couple of his paintings in an Arles' brothel, "where they belonged".[21][22]

Bouguereau’s works were eagerly bought by American millionaires who considered him the most important French artist of that time.[15] But even during his lifetime there was critical dissent in assessing his work; the art historian Richard Muther wrote in 1894 that Bouguereau was a man "destitute of artistic feeling but possessing a cultured taste [who] reveals... in his feeble mawkishness, the fatal decline of the old schools of convention." In 1926, American art historian Frank Jewett Mather criticized the commercial intent of Bouguereau’s work, writing that the artist "multiplied vague, pink effigies of nymphs, occasionally draped them, when they became saints and madonnas, painted on the great scale that dominates an exhibition, and has had his reward. I am convinced that the nude of Bouguereau was prearranged to meet the ideals of a New York stockbroker of the black walnut generation." Bouguereau confessed in 1891 that the direction of his mature work was largely a response to the marketplace: "What do you expect, you have to follow public taste, and the public only buys what it likes. That's why, with time, I changed my way of painting."[23]

After 1920, Bouguereau fell into disrepute, due in part to changing tastes.[5] Comparing his work to that of his Realist and Impressionist contemporaries, Kenneth Clark faulted Bouguereau’s painting for "lubricity", and characterized such Salon art as superficial, employing the "convention of smoothed-out form and waxen surface."[24]

In 1974, the New York Cultural Center staged a show of Bouguereau's work partly as a curiosity, although curator Robert Isaacson had his eye on the long-term rehabilitation of Bouguereau's legacy and reputation.[25] In 1984, the Borghi Gallery hosted a commercial show of 23 oil paintings and one 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. More recently, resurgence in the artist's popularity has been promoted by American collector Fred Ross, who owns a number of paintings by Bouguereau and features him on his website at Art Renewal Center.[26][27]

Since 1975 prices for Bouguereau's works have climbed steadily, with major paintings selling at high prices: $1,500,000 in 1998 for The Heart's Awakening, $2,600,000 in 1999 for Alma Parens and Charity at auction in May 2000 for $3,500,000. Bouguereau's works are in many public collections.

As a teacher

From the 1860s, Bouguereau was closely associated with the Académie Julian where he gave lessons and advice to art students, male and female, from around the world. During several decades he taught drawing and painting to hundreds, if not thousands, of students. Many of them managed to establish artistic careers in their own countries, sometimes following his academic style, and in other cases, rebelling against it, like Henri Matisse. He married his most famous pupil, Elizabeth Jane Gardner, after the death of his first wife.

Bouguereau's signature

Sources on his full name are contradictory: it is sometimes given as William-Adolphe Bouguereau (composed name), William Adolphe Bouguereau (usual and civil-only names according to the French tradition), while in other occasions it appears as 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).
In literature

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1890 novel The Sign of the Four, the character Mr Sholto remarks "there cannot be the least question about the Bouguereau. I am partial to the modern French school."[28]
Selected works
Sewing (1898)

La Danse (1856)
Alone in the World (Latest 1867)
The Knitting Girl (1869)
The Elder Sister (1869)
Nymphs and Satyr (1873)
Evening Mood (1882)
The Nut Gatherers (1882)
The Return of Spring (1886)
The First Mourning (1888)
The Shepherdess (1889)
Les murmures de l'Amour (1889)
L'Amour et Psyché, enfants (1890)
The Bohemian (1890)
Le Travail interrompu (1891)
The Goose Girl (1891)
Innocence (1893)
Rêve de printemps (1901)

See also

Gustave Doyen


Wissman, Fronia E. (1996). Bouguereau. San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks. p. 10. ISBN 978-0876545829.
Glueck, Grace (January 6, 1985). "To Bouguereau, Art Was Strictly 'The Beautiful'". The New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
Ross, Fred. "William Bouguereau: Genius Reclaimed". Art Renewal. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
Wissman 1996, p. 11.
Andrews, Gail (2011). Birmingham Museum of Art: Guide to the Collection. London: D Giles Ltd. pp. 222–223. ISBN 978-1904832775.
Wissman 1996, p. 12.
Wissman 1996, p. 24.
Wissman 1996, p. 25.
Wissman 1996, p. 13.
Wissman 1996, p. 70.
Wissman 1996, p. 14.
Wissman 1996, p. 112.
Wissman 1996, p. 60.
Wissman 1996, p. 31.
Wissman 1996, p. 103.
Wissman 1996, p. 16.
Wissman 1996, p. 110.
Wissman 1996, p. 15.
Wissman 1996, p. 114.
Wissman 1996, p. 9.
Bertrand, Anne. "Gauguin le rapin : ""Racontars de rapin, suivi de Art de Papou & chant de Rossignoou"" et ""La lutte pour les peintres""". liberation.fr (in French). Libération.
Intimate Journals, p. 174, at Google Books
"Marketing Modernism in Fin-de-siècle Europe". google.com.
Clark, Kenneth. The Nude; A Study in Ideal Form, 163-164. Princeton University Press, 1956. ISBN 0-691-01788-3
Isaacson, Robert. William-Adolphe Bouguereau (catalogue). New York Cultural Center and Farleigh Dickinson, 1974.
"Who Is Buying All Those Bouguereaus?". nysun.com.
"Gifted artist? Bouguereau's work controversial more than a century after his death". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Doyle, Arthur Conan (2011) [1890]. Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four (Sherlock Complete Set 2). Headline. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-7553-8765-6.

Further reading

Boime, Albert (1974). Art Pompier: Anti-Impressionism. New York: Hofstra University Press.
Boime, Albert (1986). The Academy and French Painting in the Nineteenth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300037326.
Celebonovic, Aleska (1974). Peinture kitsch ou réalisme bourgeois, l'art pompier dans le monde. Paris: Seghers.
D'Argencourt, Louise (1981). The Other Nineteenth Century (First ed.). Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada. ISBN 978-0888843487.
D'Argencourt, Louise; Walker, Mark Steven (1984). William Bouguereau 1925–1905. Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Gibson, Michael (1984). "Bouguereau's 'Photo-Idealism'". International Herald Tribune.
Glueck, Grace (January 6, 1985). "To Bouguereau, Art Was Strictly 'The Beautiful'". The New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
Harding, James (1980). Les peintres pompiers. Paris: Flammarion.
Isaacson, Robert (1974). William Adolphe Bouguereau. New York: New York Cultural Center.
Lécharny, Louis-Marie (1998). L'Art-Pompier. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. ISBN 978-2130493419.
Ritzenthaler, Cécile (1987). L'école des beaux art du XIXe siècle. Paris: Editions Mayer. ISBN 978-2852990029.
Rosenblum, Robert; Janson, H.W. (2004). 19th Century Art (Second ed.). New York: Pearson. ISBN 978-0131895621.
Russell, John (December 23, 1974). "Art: Cultural Center Honors Bouguereau". The New York Times.
"The Bouguereau Market". The Arte newsletter. January 6, 1981. pp. 6–8.

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