William-Adolphe Bouguereau

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Nineteenth century eminent French painter, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, holds an unprecedented position in the world of art. He was known for his academic paintings and traditionalism. Some of the recurring themes of his work were inspired by mythology, the modern interpretation of classic work. His popularity grew with time and reached United States as he received numerous accolades. The Impressionist avant-garde lambasted him for being the quintessential salon painter.

Born on November 30, 1825, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, was raised in La Rochelle, France. A Roman Catholic priest taught him biblical and classical subjects and sent him to formal school. During early stage he won the first prize for painting Saint Roch at the École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux. Besides he also studied anatomical dissections and historical costumes and archeology which would come in handy in the years to come. His career was furthered when he was accepted at François-Édouard Picot. At the studio he studied the academic style painting. At the young age of 26, Bouguereau won the coveted Prix de Rome. The painting that won him that prize was Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes. A year long stay at the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy was his reward.

While staying in Rome and Italy he happened to come across Renaissance art which he studied first hand. Moreover he studied classical literature which inspired his artwork subjects. Afterwards his paintings that manifested the traditional academic style were showcased at the Paris Salon annual exhibition. Critics reviewed his work as having natural instinct for contours and praised his work for deriving influence from ancient work. Moreover, Bouguereau completed Raphael’s painting The Triumph of Galatea which was one of the perquisites of the Prix de Rome. Numerous of his works manifest the classical approach composition. He was also known for beautifying the female subjects of his art while staying true to the likeness.

During mid nineteenth century he established connection with the Impressionist art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, who helped clients buy art from renowned artists. His popularity grew incessantly and reached England. As his fortune grew he bought a large house and a studio in Montparnasse. His paintings brought the modern element to classical subjects. The perpetual focus of his work was nude female characters mostly, such as goddesses, nymphs and bathers. Such paintings garnered attention of elite art patrons. Additionally, he was commissioned to decorate churches, private houses and public building with his artwork. He kept switching between different style, his original and orthodox styles.

His successful career brought him Academy honors, he become Life Member in 1876 and earned Grand Medal of Honor (1885). In addition to that he joined the Académie Julian to teach drawing. The institution was co-ed, with nominal fees and independent of entrance exam. In 1877, a tragedy struck and his wife and child died. He remarried to a fellow artist and his pupil, Elizabeth Jane Gardner, in 1896. The Académie française is one of his attempts at opening up French art institutions for women. His love of art never ceased to grow, and his studio was one place he felt at home. In 1995 his home and studio got robbed and the same year he lost his fight of life to a heart disease.

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