William-Adolphe Bouguereau was a painter of mythological, religious and historical subjects, as well as portraits and the occasional scene of contemporary genre. He was a pupil of the classicism in the 19th century Parisian Academy. His carefully constructed compositions, emphasizing the idealized human figure, are worked through half tones, to the highest degree of finish. He held a lifelong love and appreciation for the rural, natural world, nurtured through his upbringing, often choosing peasant subjects, which he presented idealized and sublime.
Bouguereau was the son of an olive oil merchant. He first studied with Louis Sage, a student of Ingres; later he joined the Ecole municipale de dessin et de peinture in Bordeaux and worked under Jean-Paul Alaux. He then moved to Paris after being accepted, with the support of Picot, to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Bouguereau received several second and third class medals and honorable mentions in the late 1840s. In 1850, Baudry received the first class Rome Prize, but as there was a vacancy at the Villa Medicis a special dispensation was made and Bouguereau was also sent to study in Rome. The subject of his prize-winning submission was Zenoby found by the shepherds on the banks of the Arax.
As President of the Societe des Artistes Francais, Bouguereau was a crucial member of the Salon jury, and often opposed to the subject matter and techniques of the Impressionists. When Meissonnier formed the breakaway Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts, the official Salon became known as ‘Le Salon Bougereau.’ Bouguereau was perhaps best known for his handling of the female figure in all her forms: idealized nudes, Madonnas, and the first blossoms of womanhood. His painting technique achieved an unsurpassed degree of finish and luminous coloration, the hallmarks of the French Academy of the late nineteenth century.
Museum Collections Include:
Musée du Louvre, Paris; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Nelson Atkins Museum of Fine Art, Kansas City; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA