William-Adolphe Bouguereau  

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"William Bouguereau, who industriously learnt all that can be assimilated by a man destitute of artistic feeling but possessing a cultured taste, reveals even more clearly, in his feeble mawkishness, the fatal decline of the old schools of convention. He has been compared to Octave Feuillet, who also never extricated himself from the scented atmosphere of distinguished society; but the comparison is unjust to Feuillet." --The History of Modern Painting (1893/94) Richard Muther

Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905) was a French academic painter. Bouguereau was a traditionalist whose realistic genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects with a heavy emphasis on the female nude.

Although he created an idealized world, his almost photo-realistic style was popular with rich art patrons. He was very famous in his time but today his subject matter and technique receive relatively little attention compared to the popularity of the Impressionists.

Throughout much of the 20th century, his work has been thought of as academic, kitschy and erotic "art pompier." He often depicts ingenues and used some of the religious and erotic symbolism of the Old Masters, such as the “broken pitcher” which connoted lost innocence.


In 1974, the New York Cultural Center staged a show of Bouguereau's work as a curiosity. In 1984, the Borghi Gallery hosted the commercial show of his 23 oil paintings and 1 drawing. In the same year a major exhibition was organized by the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, in Canada. The exhibition opened at the Musée du Petit-Palais, in Paris, traveled to The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, and concluded in Montréal. This was the beginning of renewal of interest about Bouguereau. In 1997 Mark Borghi and Laura Borghi organized an early Internet exhibition.

In 2000, the Art Renewal Center was founded by Fred Ross and like-minded artists and collectors to oppose Modernism and advocate traditional values of art. They particularly champion the work of Bouguereau, whom Ross considers to be "deserving of the highest accolades in the art world."

Today, over one hundred museums throughout the world exhibit Bouguereau's works.

Selected works

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