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William Adolphe Bouguereau

William Bouguereau is a mid-nineteenth century French neoclassic artist who specialized in Academic art and Realism with a strong emphasis on the female figure. Born in November of 1825 in La Rochelle, France, to a wine and olive oil merchant, Bouguereau was introduced at an early age to classical and biblical subjects by his uncle who became his advocate for Bouguereau to attend high school. As he began to show artistic ability early on, his father sent him to Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux where Bouguereau’s early career as an artist began to bloom.

From then on, William went on to win numerous rewards for his pristine paintings and soon was introduced to Academic Art which puts a strong emphasis on mythological and historical figures. His focus stayed greatly on this genre though he does go on to be commissioned for numerous wall murals and portraits throughout his life.

In 1875, Bouguereau began his long career of teaching drawing at Acedemic Julian where he played an integral part in establishing women’s place in many art institutions. For a time his style, which consisted of a photo-like precision in his paintings, grew out of favor with main stream taste in France though he was still highly sought after by rich Americans. In 1920, his artwork was thoroughly unfavored mostly due to a rise in popularity of Impressionist paintings. It wasn’t until 1987, that his work was reintroduced and began to gain notoriety once again.

Toward the end of his life, Bouguereau stated “...[i]f I cannot give myself to my dear paintings, I am miserable." He passed away after a long life on August 19, 1905 from heart disease though his timeless paintings live on in many museums and galleries around the world.

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