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Nymphs and Satyr, by William Bouguereau (Detail)
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William Bouguereau


by Damien Bartoli, with Fred Ross
Translated by Kingsley Owen & Juan C. Martinez
Edited by Fred Ross, Introduction by Fred Ross

Celebrity and Official Honours

Few truly unusual events punctuated the following years. Bouguereau received one first-place medal at the International Exposition in Munich and became a member of the committee for the perfecting the manufacture of Gobelin tapestries. His daughter, Henriette, married Georges Vincens, son of a wealthy La Rochelle businessman and a distant cousin related to the Signette branch of the family. The union led to the birth of little William, making the great master, William, a grandfather for the first time. He had attained the pinnacle of happiness and contentment-despite the many setbacks-knowing that the future of the Bouguereau line was assured.

In 1881, the French government handed over the administrative control of the annual Salon to the artist exhibitors themselves. As a result, the Société des Artistes Français was founded and Bouguereau was elected the first president of the Painting section. His weighty responsibilities in that post-particularly the planning and jurying-taxed his free time. But, Bouguereau would always rise to the occasion, never shirking his obligations, no matter how burdensome.

Among the notable events of the following years was the purchase of a townhouse on rue Verdière in La Rochelle. Here, Bouguereau would spend his summer vacations. At this time, Julian put him in charge of a teaching studio where, he was assisted by Gabriel Ferrier and Alfred Bramtot.

The French art dealer, Goupil, organized an exhibition of French artists in London in 1884. Seven of Bouguereau's paintings were exhibited, including two of his favourites: The Young Bacchus and Biblis.

Bouguereau was elected president in 1885 of the benevolent association founded by Baron Taylor, whose goal was to accumulate funds to help support less-fortunate artists and their families. The same year, for the funeral of Victor Hugo, he was chosenby the French Institute to represent painters - a much-envied honor.

The next year, 1886, saw him attend a reception at the college in Pons as president of the alumni association. In the course of the festivities, he offered a self-portrait to Louis Sage and reminded his first professor of the debt of gratitude he owed him.

Bouguereau then insisted on taking personal charge of the preparations for the exhibition to commemorate the death of his old friend, Baudry - the opening would be attended by the President of the Republic.

Meanwhile, in his private life, he was very much worried by the financial imprudence of his son-in-law, Georges, which would reflect badly on the Vincens family and especially on his daughter, Henriette and her son, little William.

The following year, the exclusive contract he had with Goupil expired and was not renewed. Though he had done some business with Goupil's successors, Boussod & Valadon, he was thereafter, represented by the London firm of Tooth & Son. As increasingly, wealthy Americans were purchasing his greatest works, this well placed English-speaking dealer became a considerable asset rather than a detriment.

A Rift in the Société des Artistes Français

Whether in the service of official duties or in his conduct of everyday life, Bouguereau always presented a frank, just, and honest temperament. He despised injustice and the arbitrary use of power. This caused him to sometimes be abrupt and, above all, a fierce advocate for what he believed. These character traits were the source of some conflicts, many with his colleagues and critics, as well as with various state officials. It was owing to his inflexibility of one such deeply held conviction that led after the World's Fair of 1889, to a major falling-out with the artist, Meissonnier, and his supporters over a detail in the regulations governing allocation of compensation. Bouguereau, as President of the Société des Artistes Français fiercely defended the future of young artists, battling to keep the medallists from the World's Fair from being excluded from competing in future Salons. Despite Bouguereau's prompt resignation after his fruitless efforts to reconcile the dissenters, this bitter confrontation caused a split and a subsequent founding of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, complete with its own annual Salon held at the Champ de Mars.

This unwillingness to bow to political pressures caused him on another occasion to defy both public opinion and the press, as well as provoking the wrath of Paul Déroulède and the League of Patriots, by participating in the Berlin Exposition in March of 1891. There he exhibited Holy Women at the Tomb and Our Mother of the Angels.

In April of 1892, he went to London where he prepared an exhibit of French artists at the Royal Academy and its outstanding success resulted in it becoming an annual event.

Marriage and Death

In February of 1896, Bouguereau's mother died in her 92nd year. Elizabeth Gardner was from New Hampshire, but she married William in his home parish in La Rochelle for he preferred at 71 years of age, not to undertake the lengthy trip to the U.S.A. Then that year when courses at the Julian and Beaux-Arts academies were over, the "young couple" made their way to La Rochelle on a kind of honeymoon. For a while, Elizabeth Gardner-Bouguereau decided to put her own career as an artist on hold and dedicate her life to her husband. She was very devoted and was always at his side, acting as his secretary for the master's voluminous correspondence, papers, and speeches.

In 1899, his son Paul, a lawyer who had become a well-regarded member of the Paris bar and an officer in the military reserve, contracted tuberculosis. On medical advice, Paul left in February for Menton in the south of France along with his father and stepmother who stayed with him until mid-May. The master profited from his time in the South by being able to paint long hours, seemingly without respite. Paul later went to Pau to convalesce, not returning to Paris until 1900 where he was to soon die in the arms of his family. Thus Bouguereau was forced to suffer the ghastly tragedy of witnessing 4 of his 5 children dying before him, the heaviest of burdens that all his power, fame and fortune could do nothing to alleviate. By this time, Bouguereau was worn out by his duties relating to the 1900 World's Fair in Paris but still he did not shirk any of his responsibilities and his work helped keep his mind otherwise occupied. Accompanied by his wife, Bouguereau attended a few dinners and receptions but most invitations were declined because the couple was in mourning.

To the overburdened father, the loss of Paul was a decidedly severe blow physically as well as to his spirit. He began to age very quickly; and his days now seemed to weigh upon him as never before. Moreover, Bouguereau had combined his life of hard work also with that of a bon vivant who loved to eat and drink heartily. Worst of all he was a chain smoker. In spite of a robust constitution, he began to have several serious health crises after Paul's death. In 1902 there were cardiac problems and the first signs of arteriosclerosis.

But, there were also happy moments that comforted him. The paintings he chose to represent him at the World's Fair were highly acclaimed. In his family life, his grandson William had been accepted in the prestigious École Polytechnique which was a source of great pride.

In 1903, he was made a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor. Shortly afterward, he was invited to Rome to participate in the centenary of the Villa Medici. Bouguereau and Elizabeth made the trip to Italy and, after the official celebrations were over, they spent a romantic week in Florence. In the initial years of the 20th century, glittering invitations to the celebrated master poured in from all over Europe but Elizabeth, with the agreement of her husband, declined them routinely for she could see a rapid deterioration in his health. She cared for him and indulged him, but it was increasingly a burden for him even to walk. By the end of 1903, it proved too difficult for him to hold a pencil or a paintbrush and he found himself nearly unable to work.

It was a minor incident-an aborted break-in attempt at his home-that struck the final, fatal blow to his health and his decline started to accelerate daily. Ensuring that all of his affairs were in order, the old man - husband, father, and grandfather - sensing that the end was near, left Paris in the middle of the night on Monday, the 31st day of July 1905 to return to his beloved La Rochelle. A few days later, on the 19th of August, the great Master, William Adolphe Bouguereau, passed away quietly, surrounded by those he loved. A solemn funeral procession and service were arranged by the city of La Rochelle on August 23. The next day in Paris, a burial ceremony took place attended by family, friends, colleagues, and students.

Bouguereau Today

One can suppose it best that he was not here to see the successful assault on traditional art that turned the art world upside down in the many decades that followed his death, and the temporary ruination of his reputation and life's work even so far as to write him out of most of the history texts about the period. His fate was to be much like that of Rembrandt, whose work was also ridiculed and banished from museums and official art circles for the hundred years following his death too. Rembrandt's reputation wasn't resuscitated until the 1790's due to the influence of the founder of the Royal Academy in London, Sir Joshua Reynolds. Even as recently as 1910, Reynolds paintings brought higher prices at auction than Rembrandt. Bouguereau's reappreciation can rather accurately be tracked from 1979 when his prices at auction quadrupled, and then was further catapulted by the 1984 retrospective that traveled from the Petite Palais in Paris, to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada and finally to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. It was in fact a financial contribution by our current chairman of the Art Renewal Center that made possible that exhibition. His values in the market place have literally exploded; from works selling for and average $500 to $1500 in the 1950's, to where in the last three years alone his auction records have been broken another 4 times. In 1998 The Hearts Awakening sold for $1,410,000 at Christie's New York. In 1999 Cupid et Psyche, Enfants sold for $1,760,000 also at Christie's to be surpassed the very next day at Sotheby's when Alma Perens owned by Sylvester Stalone sold for $2,650,00. That record only lasted one year until May of 2000, when Charite sold $3,520,000 back at Christie's. Over the last 20 years his paintings all over the world have been taken out of their crates, basements, storage rooms and attics, dusted off, many cleaned and expertly restored, and today over a hundred museums and institutions proudly have his works on permanent exhibit. Reproductions of paintings are selling by the millions in poster shops and gift stores world wide, and there is much evidence that they are even outselling the reproductions of paintings by the most famous of the modernists.

Since we consider him one of the most important artists in history, we will be regularly adding additional images by him to this site. You can read more about him in the ARC Philosophy which can be found on the top menu bar of this page or going to:

Bouguereau Paintings in American Museums

After three quarters of a century in obscurity, all of the museums in the world that owned Bouguereau paintings, finally in the early 1980's realized what treasures they had. Today, over 100 museums around the world have placed Bouguereau paintings on permanent exhibit in their most prestigious galleries (at least those which had not been foolish enough to sell off their Bouguereau paintings earlier in the century when his work was being ridiculed and degraded by modernist pedagogues).

Due to popular demand we have asked Damien Bartoli to create a list of Bouguerau paintings that can be readily seen at America's premiere art museums. It is not intended to be exhaustive, but it gives the tens of thousands of Bouguereau lovers who visit his galleries here on the Art Renewal Center, an easy way to plan itineraries and excursions to see the originals. There are scores of his paintings also in private collections, including 7 in the collection of our Chairman (Fred and Sherry Ross Collection).

Musées U.S.

Frère et sœur bretonsNew York Metropolitan Museum, NYC, NY.
Le leverNew York Metropolitan Museum, NYC, NY.
SéductionNew York Metropolitan Museum, NYC, NY.
L'ange gardienNY Historical Society, NYC. USA
Portrait de M. Bishop, enfantNY Historical Society, NYC.
Le secretNY Historical Society, NYC.
Jeune fille allant à la fontaineDahesh MoArt ; NYC, NY
Premières caressesLyndhurst Collections, Tarrytown, NY.
La Madone aux rosesMuseum Jay Gould, Lyndhurst Castle, Tarrytown, NY.
L'Art et la LittératureArnot Art Museum, Elmira, état de NY.
Portrait de Monsieur M.Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA.
La charitéUniversity of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI.
La PaixThe Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, Missouri.
Les remords d'OresteThe Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Va.
La liseuseThe Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Ct
MéditationSyracuse University Art Collection, Syracuse.
Le vœuPhiladelphia Museum of Arts, Philadelphia.
Jeune bergèreAppleton Museum of Art, Florida University, Ocala, FL.
La petite fille aux yeux bleusThe Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, Indiana.
TricoteuseJoslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska.
FaneuseCarnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA.
La sœur aînéeMuseum of Fine Arts, Houston, Tx.
L'Italienne à la fontaineThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO.
L'amour fraternelBoston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
BergèreMuseum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Ma.
Nymphes et SatyreClark Art Institute Museum, Williamstown, Massachusetts
Baigneuse accroupieThe Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Ma.
La bourriqueThe Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Ma.
L'agneau nouveau-néThe Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Homère et son guideLayton Art Collection, Milwaukee Art Museum.
Enfant à la tasse de laitCincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH.
La nymphéePioneer and Haggin Gallery, Stockton, Ca
Promenade à âneCummer Art Gallery of Art, Jacksonville, Fl
TricoteuseAppleton Museum of Art, Florida University, Ocala, FL.
Le reposThe Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Oh
La tentationThe Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis.
La Vierge aux angesMuseum at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Glendale, Ca
Gardeuse de moutonsFrye Art Museum, Seatle, WA.
La Vierge, Jésus et Saint Jean BaptisteH. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
Les noisettesDetroit Institute of Arts, Detroit.
La NuitHillwood Museum, Washington, DC.
Les deux baigneusesThe Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois.
MéditationJoslyn Museum of Art, Omaha, Nebraska.
Jeune bergèreSan Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA.
Le printempsJoslyn Museum of Art, Omaha, Nebraska.
Petite fille assise au bord de l'eauHorace C. Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle.
Au pied de la falaiseBrooks Museum, Memphis, TN.
Petite boudeuseRahr - West Museum, Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Première rĂªverieThe New Orleans Museum of Arts, New Orleans, La
PastourelleThe Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Ok
BohémienneThe Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Mn
Petites mendiantesSyracuse University Art Collection, Syracuse, NY.
Les mûresSaint Johnsbury Atheneum, Vermont.
La cruche casséeFine Arts Museum of San Francisco, CA.
Gardeuse d'oiesH. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
L'abriUCLA Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Le travail interrompuMead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, Ma
Le chant du rossignolThe Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio.
SouvenirThe Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh ; Pa
Portrait de la Comtesse de CambacérèsThe Seattle Art Museum, Seattle.
Sur la grèveThe Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit.
Une vocationThe Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Oh.
RéflexionMabee - Gerrer Museum, Shawnee, Oklahoma.
L'admirationSan Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas.
InspirationMuseum of Art & Science, Columbus, Georgia.
La révérenceThe Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Idylle enfantineDenver Art Museum, Denver.
Tendres proposThe Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Winter Park, Fl.
L'Amour s'envoleFrye Art Museum, Seattle, WA.
Le jeune frèreVirginia Museum of Art, Richmond, VA.
Jeune prêtresseMemorial Art Center, University of Rochester, Ny
Le glaïeulMobile Museum of Art, Mobile, Alabama.
Rêve de printempsIndianapolis Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Young Girl Defending Herself Against Cupid

Baigneuse Accroupie
116.5 x 89 cm

Dante and Virgil in Hell
1850, 281 x 225 cm

Madone Assise
1888, 176.5 x 103 cm

Little Shepherdess
1891, 155.5 x 86.5 cm

The Bohemian