William Adolphe Bouguereau

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William Adolphe Bouguereau

French Academic Classical painter, teacher, frescoist and draftsman

Born 1825 - Died 1905

Born in La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime, Poitou-Charentes, France)

Died in La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime, Poitou-Charentes, France)

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Excerpt from the Biography of William Bouguereau, by Damien Bartoli and Frederick C. Ross:

"William Bouguereau is unquestionably one of history's greatest artistic geniuses. Yet in the past century, his reputation and unparalleled accomplishments have undergone a libelous, dishonest, relentless and systematic assault of immense proportions. His name was stricken from most history texts and when included it was only to blindly, degrade and disparage him and his work. Yet, as we shall see, it was he who single handedly opened the French academies to women, and it was he who was arguably the greatest painter of the human figure in all of art history. His figures come to life like no previous artist has ever before or ever since achieved. He wasn't just the best ever at painting human anatomy, more importantly he captured the tender and subtlest nuances of personality and mood. Bouguereau caught the very souls and spirits of his subjects much like Rembrandt. Rembrandt is said to have captured the soul of age. Bouguereau captured the soul of youth.

Considering his consummate level of skill and craft, and the fact that the great preponderance of his works are life-size, it is one of the largest bodies of work ever produced by any artist. Add to that the fact that fully half of these paintings are great masterpieces, and we have the picture of an artist who belongs like Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Carravaggio, in the top ranks of only a handful of masters in the entire history of western art.

Having died in 1905, we can suppose it best that he was not here to see the successful assault on traditional art that turned the art world inside out and upside down in the decades that followed his death. 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. Rembrandt's reputation wasn't resuscitated until the 1790's (he died in 1669) 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 re-appreciation can rather accurately be traced from about 1979 when his prices at auction quadrupled that year alone, 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 Athenaeum in Hartford. In 1980 The Metropolitan Museum in New York permanently hung two of his works that been left in storage from early in the century.

Since 1960, his values in the market place have literally exploded, doubling on average every 3.5 years. From works selling for and average $500 to $1500 in 1960, they have accelerated to where in the last three years alone his auction records have been repeatedly broken another 4 times. In 1998 The Heart's 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 his 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 any of the most famous modernists. The definitive catalog Raissoneé on his life and work by Damien Bartoli and the Bouguereau Committee was published after 25 years of work was published in late 2010. Since Bouguereau is one of the most important artists in history, we will be regularly adding additional images by him to this site. Besides Mr. Bartoli's excellent biography below, you can read more about him in the ARC Philosophy."

We wish to express our gratitude to Damien Bartoli for his help in cataloging the paintings in this gallery.

Personal

student of

teacher of

Institutional

grand officer of

  • Legion d'Honneur from 1903

member of

  • Academie des Beaux-Arts from 1876

officer of

  • Legion d'Honneur from 1876

president of

  • Societe des Artistes Francais

16 July 2018 to 27 July 2018

The Painting Practices of William Bouguereau Workshop 6


10 Via Nardo di Cione, Firenze, Toscana 50121


"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

by Ross, Fred

Published on 06 January 2000

Biography of William Bouguereau

by Bartoli, Damien, Ross, Fred

Published on 01 January 2002

Bouguereau at Work

by Walker, Mark

Published on 01 January 2002
Published on 01 January 2002

About Bouguereau

by Kearns, Stapleton

Published on 23 November 2009
Published on 16 November 2010

Catalog Raisonné on William Bouguereau

by Bartoli, Damien, Ross, Fred

Published on 03 February 2011
Published on 24 December 2011
Published on 09 August 2013
Published on 09 August 2013
Published on 27 August 2013

[To M. Pretet]

Paris April 23, 1902

My dear Pretet,

Amongst the persons I recommended to you, there is one to whom I am particularly concerned. He is M. Eugene Guillon, he made the portrait of the Duc d'Alencon. That poor man, I did not see his painting in the Salon, is in a pitiful state, he is one of my good friends and I would be very much obliged if you could do whatever possible for him.

Yours,
W. Bouguereau

Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

William Bouguereau

Image courtesy of Ciochetti Bernard

Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

William Bouguereau

Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

Added on 13 February, 2010

Books and Related Products

The Catalog Raisonne is a two-volume boxed set which illustrates the complete oeuvre of paintings of this great master, including information on all of William Bouguereau's 828 known paintings, as well as the entire 600 page biography written by Damien Bartoli, with Fred Ross, ARC Chairman and President of the Bouguereau Committee.