William-Adolphe Bouguereau
French, 1825-1905
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Selected exhibitions
2016
Frye Salon,
Frye Art Museum
2015
Frye Salon,
Frye Art Museum
Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris,
American Federation of Arts

One of the leading 19th-century French painters working in the academic tradition, William-Adolphe Bouguereau produced scenes taken from classical, mythological, and biblical subjects, focusing primarily on female figures: goddesses, bathers, nudes, and Madonnas. Revered by the Paris academy and greatly admired for his meticulous rendering of skin tones, Bouguereau regularly exhibited at the Paris Salon and was highly successful during his lifetime. His work is also characterized by simplicity and earnestness of emotion and idealized subject matter, for which he often drew derision from the Paris avant-garde, who considered his style outmoded, sentimental, and artificial. It has been suggested that Bouguereau’s sympathetic renderings of children in pastoral settings or indoor spaces, cast in soft lighting, such as The Story Book (1877), was borne out of the loss of one of his children to disease at an early age.

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