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Bouguereau, Adolphe William

BOUGUEREAU, ADOLPHE WILLIAM (1825-1905), French painter, was born at La Rochelle on the 30th of November 1825. From 1843 till 1850 he went through the course of training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and in 1850 divided the Grand Prix de Rome scholarship with Baudry, the subject set being "Zenobia on the banks of the Araxes." On his return from Rome in 1855 he was employed in decorating several aristocratic residences, deriving inspiration from the frescoes which he had seen at Pompeii and Herculaneum, and which had already suggested his "Idyll" (1853). He also began in 1847 to exhibit regularly at the Salon. "The Martyr's Triumph," the body of St Cecilia borne to the catacombs, was placed in the Luxembourg after being exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1855; and in the same year he exhibited "Fraternal Love," a "Portrait" and a "Study." The state subsequently commissioned him to paint the emperor's visit to the sufferers by the inundations at Tarascon. In 1857 Bouguereau received a first prize medal. Nine of his panels executed in wax-painting for the mansion of M. Bartholomy were much discussed - "Love," "Friendship," "Fortune," "Spring," "Summer," "Dancing," "Arion on a Sea-horse," a "Bacchante" and the "Four Divisions of the Day." He also exhibited at the Salon "The Return of Tobit" (now in the Dijon gallery). While in antique subjects he showed much grace of design, in his "Napoleon," a work of evident labour, he betrayed a lack of ease in the treatment of modern costume. Bouguereau subsequently exhibited "Love Wounded" (1859), "The Day of the Dead" (at Bordeaux), "The First Discord" (1861, in the Club at Limoges), "The Return from the Fields" (a picture in which Théophile Gautier recognized "a pure feeling for the antique"), "A Fawn and Bacchante" and "Peace"; in 1863 a "Holy Family," "Remorse," "A Bacchante teasing a Goat" (in the Bordeaux gallery); in 1864 "A Bather" (at Ghent), and "Sleep"; in 1865 "An Indigent Family," and a portrait of Mme Bartholomy; in 1866 "A First Cause," and "Covetousness," with "Philomela and Procne"; and some decorative work for M. Montlun at La Rochelle, for M. Emile Péreire in Paris, and for the churches of St Clotilde and St Augustin; and in 1866 the large painting of "Apollo and the Muses on Olympus," in the Great Theatre at Bordeaux. Among other works by this artist may be mentioned "Between Love and Riches" (1869), "A Girl Bathing" (1870), "In Harvest Time" (1872), "Nymphs and Satyrs" (1873), "Charity" and "Homer and his Guide" (1874), "Virgin and Child," "Jesus and John the Baptist," "Return of Spring" (which was purchased by an American collector, and was destroyed by a fanatic who objected to the nudity), a "Pietà" (1876), "A Girl defending herself from Love" (1880), "Night" (1883), "The Youth of Bacchus" (1884), "Biblis" (1885), "Love Disarmed" (1886), "Love Victorious" (1887), "The Holy Women at the Sepulchre" and "The Little Beggar Girls" (1890), "Love in a Shower" and "First Jewels" (1891). To the Exhibition of 1900 were contributed some of Bouguereau's best-known pictures. Most of his works, especially "The Triumph of Venus" (1856) and "Charity," are popularly known through engravings. "Prayer," "The Invocation" and "Sappho" have been engraved by M. Thirion, "The Golden Age" by M. Annetombe. Bouguereau's pictures, highly appreciated by the general public, have been severely criticized by the partisans of a freer and fresher style of art, who have reproached him with being too content to revive the formulas and subjects of the antique. At the Paris Exhibition of 1867 Bouguereau took a third-class medal, in 1878 a medal of honour, and the same again in the Salon of 1885. He was chosen by the Society of French Artists to be their vice-president, a post he filled with much energy. He was made a member of the Legion of Honour in 1856, an officer of the Order 26th of July 1876, and commander 12th of July 1885. He succeeded Isidore Pils as member of the Institute, 8th of January 1876. He died on the 20th of August 1905.

See Ch. Vendryes, Catalogue illustré des œuvres de Bouguereau (Paris, 1885); Jules Claretie, Peintres et sculpteurs contemporains (Paris, 1874); P.G. Hamerton, French Painters; Artistes modernes: dictionnaire illustré des beaux-arts (1885); "W. Bouguereau," Portfolio (1875); Emile Bayard, "William Bouguereau," Monde moderne (1897).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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