William-Adolphe Bouguereau was a French artist of Academicism whose works have many female nudes and are mostly mythological themed. His paintings and technique were highly regarded in France and had significant appeal in America during his lifetime. However, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, many younger painters lost interest in his work. It wasn't until more recently that Bouguereau's works were once again discovered due to a resurgence of interest in figure painting.
On November 30, 1825, Bouguereau was born into a family of wine and oil merchants. In 1832, his family relocated to Saint-Martin-de-Ré, and he went to Pons to board with his uncle, Eugène Bouguereau. Under the influence of his uncle, Bouguereau developed an interest in literature and religion and learned Latin. Bouguereau took drawing lessons from Louis Sage, a student of the neo-classical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, in 1838. His father wanted him to take over the family business, but Bouguereau was much more interested in painting. After earning enough money, Bouguereau entered the École Municipale de Dessin et de Peinture in Bordeaux, and he got many portrait commissions introduced by his uncle. Bouguereau entered the École des Beaux-Arts recommended by Francois-Edouard Picot. In 1850, he won the Grand Prix de Rome with his historical painting Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Arax after two failed attempts. The reward provided him with a three-year stay in Rome, which let him refine his skills and study paintings, architecture and sculpture of great Italian masters.
Height of His Career
Bouguereau built up his popularity through commissions and annual exhibitions at the Paris Salon. His works appealed to middle and upper-class patrons, and his fame was further heightened by the work Napoleon III Visiting the Floods of Tarascon, a commission from Emperor Napoleon III in 1856.
Bouguereau enlisted in the National Guard in the late 1860s and was nearly executed after being mistaken for a German spy in 1871. He was an instructor at the Académie Julian and married one of his students, Elizabeth Jane Gardner.
On August 19, 1905, Bouguereau died in his home after his heart disease.