William Adolphe Bouguereau was born in 1825 in the French village of La Rochelle to a family of wine merchants. His uncle Eugène (a Roman Catholic Priest) took interest in him from an early age, tutoring him in bible study and later sending him for drawing lessons.
Bouguereau attended the Ecole Municipale de Dessin et de Peinture on a part-time basis to fine-tune his artistic abilities, studying anatomy, historical costumes, and archeology. These studies were an excellent contribution to his artistic expression since his work was based primarily on studies of the female body with realistic attention to detail.
1850 proved to be a successful year, in which he won the Grand Prix de Rome. Thereafter he moved to Rome where he continued his studies, residing there until 1854. During this time he also exhibited his masterpieces in the annual shows of the Paris Salon. In 1856 he married Marie-Nell Monchablon whom with he fathered five children.
During his lifetime, William Bouguereau was constantly criticized as being too photographic or too literary for the impressionistic view dominating the time. This did not slow the talented and determined artist. In 1874 Bouguereau ventured out of the European art community, entering an exhibit at the New York Cultural Center. This was his first modern exhibit, which he explored out of curiosity. He continued to enter his work in various exhibits throughout the most prestigious artistic venues, including the Borghi Gallery where he displayed 23 of his oil paintings and one of his drawings. Bouguereau was also involved in an exhibition structured by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with shows from Paris to Hartford, concluding in Montreal.
William Bouguereau’s many recognitions include:
• 1883 election to presidency of the Benevolent Association
• 1889 appointment as member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium
• 1891 participation in the Berlin Exposition1897 traveled to London for preparation of an exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1892. In 1897, he married one of his students, Elizabeth Jane Gardner and made rank as a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor.
Throughout his life he also advocated for women artists and worked with less fortunate struggling artists. William Bouguereau passed away in 1905.