Adolph William Bouguereau Biography, Paintings, Life and Art

Adolphe William Bouguereau: Beauty and Form




Adolph William Bouguereau is known as one of the avant garde Impressionists. He was born in 1825 to a wealthy family: his father was a wine and olive oil merchant. He was given a classical education by his uncle who tutored in the Latin, Greek, the Bible and Greek Mythology. This early introduction to mythology would be apparent in his work later on in life.


Bouguereau obtained financial support from his family and when he was 21 he travelled to Paris to study with Francois-Edouard Picot. He then gained entry into the Ecole de Beaux Arts. In 1850 Adolphe won the prestigious Prix de Rome and as part of the prize was able to travel and study at the Villa Medici. Adolphe seized this opportunity and studied the masters of the Renaissance and the Italian countryside.


In 1854 Adolphe Bouguereau returned to Paris and exhibited at the famous Salon. He was fortunate in that he exhibited regularly at the Salon for his entire life. Many artists were constantly vying to get in and never did get accepted into the Salon- not even once. To exhibit regularly at the Salon meant Bouguereau was in another class entirely. It also meant he was unpopular with other artists, such as Edgar Degas who, perhaps jealous of his fame, accused of him being ‘backward’ in his work and not advancing French art forward into a new period.


Bouguereau had an unhappy personal life: all his first three children and his first wife Marie-Nelly Monchablon died. These tragedies are immortalized in the paintings, Pieta (1876) and Vierge Consolatrice (1877).
He then became engaged to fellow artist Elizabeth Gardener. Unfortunately, their marriage was never approved by his mother and they had to wait until Bouguereau’s mother died before they could marry.
They were finally married in 1896. Bouguereau painted even when he became ill with heart disease. He died in 1905 at his studio in La Rochelle. Today he is still one of the most loved and respected artists in France. In his lifetime, he painted over 700 canvases.


International recognition was a distinguished part of William Adolphe’s career: among his honours are:
1862 -Named an honorary member of the Belgian Society of Artists
1866 - Awarded membership in the Royal Academy of Fine arts in Holland
1879 -First-class medal at the international exhibition in Munich
1881- A respected teacher, he was also awarded the position of President of the painting section of the Salon
1881 -Awarded Chevalier of the Order of Leopold in Belgium
1889 – Awarded membership of the Honorary Order of Spain
1889- Awarded Membership in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium

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