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William-Adolphe Bouguereau

William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Photograph of Bouguereau
PAINTER'S DATA
Birth name: William Adolphe Bouguereau.
Country of nationality: France.
Birth: 1825, La Rochelle, France.
Death: 1905, La Rochelle.
Style: Academicism.

William Adolphe Bouguereau was a French painter, a pioneer in the development of the neoclassical style and the application of academic standards in pictorial composition.

He was born into a Catholic, lower-middle-class family, dedicated to the small-scale trade of wine and oil. At 8 years old, his priest uncle Eugène instilled in him a love for nature and art, while he stood out at school as a draftsman. It was not until the age of 17 that he began to receive formal training in visual arts.

At some point in his transition to adulthood, Bouguereau developed a firm desire to dedicate himself to painting. Although he faced family opposition, he remained steadfast in his purpose and planned to establish himself in Paris, for which he painted and sold his first 33 paintings, while living with his family in Bordeaux.

In 1846 at the age of 20, he arrived in Paris and began a successful professional journey, which would establish him as one of the most appreciated and sought-after artists of his time, both in France and the United States.

The first event that greatly propelled his career was winning the Rome Prize, awarded by the French crown, which took him to reside in the Villa Medici, where he learned and connected with the leading European artists of the time. Thereafter, he was commissioned by the most prominent political and religious personalities of the time, the very Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned his most famous portrait.

Although he resided in Paris most of the time, he constantly returned to his hometown La Rochelle, where he died at the age of 79 due to heart failure.


Works of Bouguereau

Bouguereau's paintings mainly focus on Greek and Roman mythology, which he interpreted extensively with a hyperrealistic brushstroke and a significant tendency to describe human anatomy, especially female. Secondly, he was inspired by costumbrist scenes featuring children, always with a fantastical aura.

To purchase, access the store in the section Bouguereau oil paintings.


  • Cupid and Psyche, children
    "L'Amour et Psyché, enfants"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: L'Amour et Psyché, enfants
    Style: Academicism
    Genre: Mythological painting
    Year: 1890
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Location: Private collection

    This is one of the most famous works of the painter. The title "The First Kiss" has been mistakenly attributed to this work, which corresponds to a work from 1873.

    The painting is currently part of a private collection and is not on public display.

  • The Penitent
    "The Penitent"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Title (English): The Penitent
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1876
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Location: Laing Art Gallery, England

    It shows the face of a beautiful young woman with a black veil, adorned in gold with a necklace and bracelet. The background is smooth: purple fading to orange. The focus in the composition is on the character's face and hands.

  • Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros
    "A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Jeune fille se défendant contre Éros
    Title (English): A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros
    Style: Academicism
    Genre: Mythological painting
    Year: 1880
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Location: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA

    It depicts a girl with a playful gesture towards the Greek god of love, represented as a small angel.

  • The Night
    "Night"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: La Nuit
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1883
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Location: Hillwood Museum and Gardens, USA

    The canvas depicts one of the motifs most repeated in the artist's career, a woman, usually representing a mythological goddess, floating in the air with various elements, in this case, it deals with Nyx, the Greek deity of the night (see on Wikipedia). Another example of composition with the same style is the painting "The Dawn".

  • The Dawn
    "Dawn"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: L'Aurore
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1881
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Location: Birmingham Museum of Art, USA

    "The Dawn" (see on Wikipedia), is a goddess from Roman mythology, known for her appearances in classical literature. Cited from ancient times by literary figures such as: Homer, Virgil, and later Shakespeare himself.

    This work full of movement shows a maiden suspended in the air touching the water with the tip of her foot, smelling a calla lily, and brandishing a fabric that in turn covers her body. The composition is round, the dynamics of the figure flows in all directions: head, arm, and legs from the center.

  • Shepherd David
    "The Shepherd David"
    Author: Elizabeth Jane Gardner, wife of W. A. Bouguereau
    Original title: The Shepherd David
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1895
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Location: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, U.S.A.

    Oil on canvas titled "Shepherd David," created in 1895 by the artist Elizabeth Jane Gardner, wife of W. A. Bouguereau.

    The American painter so closely mimicked her husband's style that their works are often mistaken for one another's.

    Based on the biblical passage from the first book of Prophet Samuel, where the young King David proves his valor to the people by fighting Goliath and the most fabulous beasts, in this case, a lion.

  • Cupid
    "Cupidon"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Cupidon
    Title (English): Cupid
    Style: Academicism
    Genre: Mythological painting
    Year: 1891
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located in: Private collection

    It is one of the artist's most well-known "angels of love."

  • The Shepherdess
    "The Shepherdess"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Pastourelle
    Title (English): The Shepherdess
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1889
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located in: Philbrook Museum of Art, USA

    Shows a girl working in the Alps, wearing typical attire of the period. The character is the absolute protagonist of the composition, full-bodied and centered on the canvas, displaying the most exquisite realistic brushstrokes of this genius.

  • At the Edge of the Brook
    "At the Edge of the Brook"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Au bord du ruisseau
    Title (English): At the Edge of the Brook
    Style: Academicism
    Genre: Genre painting
    Year: 1875
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located in: Private collection

    Shows a girl with a flower headband and period clothing, sitting on a stone at the edge of a brook, in a rural setting.

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    "After the Bath"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Après le bain
    Title (English): After the Bath
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1875
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located at: Dalí Theatre-Museum, Spain
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    "A Little Coaxing"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Câlinerie
    Also known as: A Little Pampering
    Title in English: A Little Coaxing
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1890
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located at: Private collection

    It shows two sisters, the younger one kissing the cheek of the older one, both barefoot and sitting at the entrance of a city house. Both seem to be posing especially for the artist.

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    "The Abduction of Psyche"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Le Ravissement de Psyché
    Title (English): The Abduction of Psyche
    Also known as: The Kidnapping of Psyche
    Style: Academicism
    Genre: Mythological painting
    Year: 1895
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located at: Private collection

    It shows the angel Cupid carrying away Psyche, the Greek mythological goddess. More information about the work at Wikipedia.

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    "The Horseback Ride"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: La bourrique
    Title (English): The Horseback Ride
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1884
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located at: Berkshire Museum, USA

    Two girls playing outdoors in a rural setting, one of them sitting on the back of the other. Both in complicated postures, they were painted with exact body proportions. Also, the level of detail of faces, hands, and feet is utmost.

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    "The Elder Sister"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: La Sœur aînée
    Title (English): The Elder Sister
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1869
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located at: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

    Shows a girl of approximately 8 years old, sitting at the edge of the road, with the medium-height horizon showing a vast valley, on a partly cloudy day. With her little sister sleeping in her arms, both dressed in typical French attire of the time.

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    "The Crab"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Le crabe
    Title (English): The Crab
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1869
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located at: Private collection

    Shows a small girl playing on the beach with a little black crab, in the background, the marine horizon and a boat with fishermen.

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    "The Innocence"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: L'Innocence
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1893
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas

    Presents three figures that symbolize innocence in Western culture: the Lamb, the Virgin, and the Child.

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    "The Newborn Lamb"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: L'Agneau Nouveau-Né
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1873
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located at: Berkshire Museum, USA

    It's a country scene where the young shepherdess, barefoot and in humble attire, holds in her arms the new lamb born in the flock.

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    "Little Girl"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Petite fille
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1878
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas
    Located at: National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

    Displays the bust of a girl with her hands in a prayer position and a black background. As usual for the painter, the facial expression, chiaroscuro, colors, and details are magnificently achieved.

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    "Gleaner"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Glaneuse
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1894
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas

    It is a half-body portrait of a young peasant girl from the 19th-century French countryside. On her back, a bundle of wheat ears. In the background, the crops and the mid-height horizon.

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    "The Invasion"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Le Guêpier
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1892
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Support: Canvas

    The title has been translated in various ways, as it does not have a direct meaning outside of French, including "The Wasp's Nest" and "The Trap".

    It is a mythological scene, where a maiden is approached by seven angels in the form of children.


  • "Italian Girl Drawing Water"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Jeune Italienne puisant de l'eau
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1871
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas

    A beautiful Italian maiden, posing while resting on the freshly filled pitcher at the well.


  • "Love and Psyche"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: L'Amour et Psyché
    Style: Academicism
    Genre: Mythological painting
    Year: 1899
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas

    The characters are recurring in the artist, who was almost obsessed with them; these have been protagonists of Bouguereau's most famous works, the most notable having been painted 9 years ago: "Cupid and Psyche, children".


  • "Pleasant Burden"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Fardeau agréable (Not too heavy to carry)
    Style: Neoclassical
    Year: 1895
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas

  • "Nature’s Fan"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Éventail naturel, jeune fille et enfant
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1881
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas
    Located at: Portland Art Museum, USA

  • "Cupid on the lookout"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Amour à l'affût
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1890
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas

    A famous oil painting, where the angel Cupid is about to shoot his arrow.


  • "Little Sulky"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Petite boudeuse
    Style: Academicism
    Genre: Costumbrism
    Year: 1888
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas

    A pair of sisters in a French countryside house, the little grumpy one looks away distracted while the other tries to get her attention by handing her a rag doll.


  • "Young Shepherdess"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Jeune Bergère
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1868
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas
    Located at: Appleton Art Museum, USA

    The canvas depicts a young girl with a staff, leaning against the wooden fences that protect her flock, in the background are sheep, a mountain, valley, and sea.


  • "Youth"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Jeunesse
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1893
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas

    A maiden covering her ears from the propositions of a pair of cherubs, one of whom offers her a red rose, while the other looks on tenderly. The young woman's attire and the stone furniture are a fusion of the French aesthetic of the period and ancient Greece.

    The current location of the work is unknown.


  • "Songs of Spring"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Chansons de printemps
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1889
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas
    Located in: Private hands

    Depicts a vision of a young woman in the forest, accompanied by a pair of angels whispering in her ear. This was created four years before the work "Youth", which offers a very similar composition, this time with the maiden covering her ears.


  • "Fishing For Frogs"
    Author: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Original title: Pêche pour les grenouilles
    Style: Academicism
    Year: 1882
    Type: Painting
    Technique: Oil
    Medium: Canvas
    Located in: Luckett Collection, USA

    Two 19th-century French girls attempting to retrieve something from the swamp, using a small stick and line. Both display expressions of tedium, with little hope of succeeding, yet one extends an arm while the other looks on.

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