Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau

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Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau

American Academic Classical painter

Born 1837 - Died 1922

Born in Exeter (Rockingham, New Hampshire, United States)

Died in Saint Cloud (Stearns county, Minnesota, United States)

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ELIZABETH GARDENER BOUGUEREAU was an American from New Hampshire who studied with William Bouguereau, later to become his second wife after the death of his first wife Nellie a few years prior. Her art historical influence is very significant, as she undoubtedly played a role in persuading her husband to use his influence as President of the Academy, Head of the Salon, and President of the Legion d'Honneur, to convince the Academie Julien (and a few years later the École des Beaux Arts) to open their doors to women for the first time in history.

There was an exhibition at the Dahesh Museum, NY, called Overcoming All Obstacles: Women Artists of the Academy Julien which featured her work and that traveled to the Clark Museum, Williamstown, Mass., and the Dixon in Memphis. The Dahesh may still stock catalogs for this show, in which Elizabeth Gardener and other important women artists of the era are featured. The catalogue raisonné of her work is currently in preparation.

A review of the show can be found at:

Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau (1837-1922), whose work, if ever mentioned, is often accused of too closely resembling that of her husband, the famous William Bouguereau. This was a criticism that originated during her lifetime. She became quite well known during her day and her response to this accusation was "I know I am criticized for not more boldly asserting my individuality, but I would rather be known as the best imitator of Bouguereau than nobody!" Clearly Gardner felt that having to suffer the criticism that her work was too similar to that of the most famous and beloved artist of the time was preferable to not being discussed at all. Although her painting technique does closely resemble the skilled hand of her husband, she does in fact have a body of stunning works, many of which express her unique voice and give her work a degree of separation.

Although currently, her name is not widely known among the general public, her paintings have become re-appreciated among 19th century collectors. One such work is The Farmer's Daughter, which sold April 23, 2010 at Sotheby's New York for the hefty sum of $494,500, which was significantly above the $200,000 to $300,000 estimate. However, compared to Pablo Picasso, who had a painting sell for $106,482,500 in May of the same year, her prices at auction still have room to grow.

- by Kara Lysandra Ross


McCabe, Lida Rose. Madame Bouguereau at Work, Il 694.
E. Benezit, Grund, Vol 13, 1999, Paris, France.