I have wanted to feature William Bouguereau at this forum for longer than I can remember. In effect, if I had to choose a painter who embodied in his time all qualities a great artist must absolutely possess, that would be him. After all, Bouguereau’s approach to art was as conventional as it could be. He loved beauty and perfection as provided by nature and consequently, he always cultivated a classic approach to art – which he did wonderfully. So it was only natural that he became the most famous living French artists. This was from 1860 to 1900, a period during which he was the President of the French Academy, Head of the Institute, President of the Legion of Honor, and winner of nearly countless awards.
After that, it came as well as no surprise that his not recognizing the Impressionists earned him to have his name almost completely banished from the art history texts.
Bouguereau painted over 800 works in his life, all of them exceptional ones - so this time I will not mention any favourites. Rather, they will be appearing in due course along this thread.
GREAT MASTERS OF PAINTING -
(click on the image to enlarge)
By William Bouguereau
(born November 30, 1825, La Rochelle, France
died August 19, 1905, La Rochelle, France)
Technical data (2)
Oil on canvas
100.4 x 81.3 cm
(39.53" x 32.01")
"To fully appreciate the art of Bouguereau one must profess a deep respect for the discipline of drawing and the craft of traditional picture-making; one must likewise submit to the mystery of illusion as one of painting's most characteristic and sublime powers. Bouguereau's vast repertory of playful and poetic images cannot help but appeal to those who are fascinated with nature's appearances and with the celebration of human sentiment frankly and unabashedly expressed."
Bouguereau at Work - by Mark Walker
Bouguereau once wrote: Theory has no place ..., in an artist's basic education. It is the eye and the hand that should be exercised during the impressionable years of youth .... It is always possible to later acquire the accessory knowledge involved in the production of a work of art, but never -- and I want to stress that point -- never can the will, perseverance, and tenacity of a mature man make up for insufficient practice. And can there be such anguish compared to that felt by the artist who sees the realization of his dream compromised by weak execution?
William-Adolphe Bouguereau 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.
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.
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.
(1) This image is a courtesy of the Art Renewal Center.
(2) Art Renewal Center.
(3) Wikipedia, Art Renewal Center.