France • 1825−1905
William Adolph Bouguereau (November 30, 1825, La Rochelle - August 19, 1905, the same place) was a French painter and artist, a prominent representative of French academism in the second half of the 19th century.

Features the work of the artist William Bouguereau: The artist's works have always been characterised by technically impeccable realism and a sentimental interpretation of the theme. Bouguereau preferred modern figurative interpretations of mythological subjects, with an emphasis on the human (and often nude) body. William Bouguereau exhibited regularly at the Salons and for a time was known as the most famous master of the brush in all of France, as well as in England and the United States. An advocate of the academy, he rejected new artistic movements, including Impressionism, and regularly prevented the exhibition of the newest styles in the Salon. A follower of the Pre-Raphaelites, Bouguereau decorated several Parisian churches with religious compositions in that style. From 1875 the artist taught at the École Juliane.

Famous paintings by the artist William Bouguereau: "Madonna and Lilies.", "Zenobia, found by shepherds on the bank of the Arax.", "Swimmer.", "Return of Spring.", "Wasp's Nest.".

William Adolphe Bouguereau was born in La Rochelle, France, the son of wine merchant Theodore Bouguereau and his wife Marie Bonnin. The boy showed a talent for drawing early enough. When William was 12 years old he was sent to the care of his priest uncle, so he could learn a lot and get an education. Two years later, Bouguereau was sent to a Catholic college in Pont, where his art teacher was Louis Sage, a pupil of Engra. A few years later Theodore Bouguereau expanded the business, starting an olive oil trade, and called his son to his home in Bordeaux: in the morning and evening the young man studied at the School of Fine Arts, and helped his father in the shop in the afternoon. In 1844 he received his first award for a painting in the historical genre. To raise funds for a trip to Paris, the young stubborn boy managed for three months to paint 33 portraits, and, despite the protests of his father, in the spring of 1846 arrived in the French capital.

His first teacher in Paris was François PicotHe also recommended that the talented pupil enrol at the School of Fine Arts. Several times Bouguereau entered the competition for the prestigious Rome Prize, which would have provided him with several unclouded years of study in Italy. The third time fate smiled on him: his painting "Zenobia, found by shepherds on the bank of the Arax." and the availability of the vacancy gave him the opportunity to share the Rome Prize with another artist, Paul Beaudry.

Bouguereau arrived at the Villa Medici in January 1851. Here he befriended the landscape painter Paul Curzon, together with whom they travelled all over Italy, visiting practically all the important centres of culture - Milan and Pisa, Pompeii and Siena... Bouguereau fell in love with the works Michelangelostudied the works of the great Leonardo, admired Botticelli и Correggiostudied with.. Giotto He was a master of conveying character through gestures, portraying figures in movement and working out the smallest details. On his return to Rome Bouguereau worked on religious subjects which aroused positive interest on the part of the Church, and as a consequence he received commissions to decorate church interiors. The Roman holiday ended in the spring of 1854 and the artist returned to his native town of La Rochelle.

In 1856 Bouguereau received the Medal of Honour of the Paris Salon for his work on the decoration of the Bartoloni Mansion. His success was accompanied by good press reviews (he was compared to RaphaelIn 1859 William Bouguereau became a Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honour. In 1859, William Bouguereau was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour for his artistic achievements.

Having achieved success, Bouguereau began to move away from historical and mythological subjects, giving preference to lighter subjects - salon and family sketches, portraiture, and images of peasant women in folk costumes. Critics often note the commercialization of the artist's work, especially after he became acquainted with the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (link to an article on him in Artworks), who helped clients purchase paintings exhibited at the Salons.

In 1863, a painting by Bouguereau was purchased from the Salon "Holy Family."In 1864, Bouguereau painted his first work in the nude genre, The Bathing Lady, which was presented at an exhibition in Ghent. In 1864 he painted his first work in the nude genre - "The Bathing Lady", presented at an exhibition in Ghent, which was immediately purchased by the local Museum of Fine Arts. At the same time he began to work on the decoration of the Grand Theater in Bordeaux.

During his life Bouguereau painted about 822 pictures, many of which are now lost. As he wrote in his memoirs, "every day I go to my studio full of joy; in the evening, when forced to stop because of darkness, I can hardly wait for the next morning... if I cannot give myself to my dear painting, I am miserable".

Since 1875, the master began teaching at the Académie Julien, where men and women from all over the world came to study. However, this medal has two sides: the Academy was indeed attended, for example, Henri Matissehe was really taught by Bouguereau, an academic to the core, and Matisse left the institution with indignation "after the head of the small studios left it Céruse and his adherents Bonnard, Vuillard, RussellPio, Maurice Denis..." (source) Let us follow the chronology, however. In 1876 Bouguereau was elected a life member of the Academy of Fine Arts; he soon became a commander and then a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor.

William Bouguereau was married twice. His first life companion, the 19-year-old beautiful model Marie-Nellie Monchablon, became the official wife of the artist only 10 years after their meeting, in 1866. At the same time, the artist bought a plot of land in Paris at Notre-Dame-de-Champ, where a large house was built with a studio on the top floor.

The Bouguereau family had five children, three of whom died of tuberculosis, and in 1877 Marie died. After some time, Bouguereau decided to marry his favourite pupil, the artist Elizabeth Jane Gardner. The engagement lasted 19 years due to resistance from the artist's mother and daughter. Bouguereau and Gardner did not marry until June 1896. The artist survived four of his five children. He died in Elizabeth's arms in 1905.
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