BOUGUEREAU, William-Adolphe
(b. 1825, La Rochelle, d. 1905, La Rochelle)


French painter. In 1846 he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, in the studio of François-Edouard Picot. This was the beginning of the standard academic training of which he became so ardent a defender later in life. He won the Prix de Rome in 1850 for Zenobia Discovered by Shepherds on the Bank of the River Araxes (1850; Paris, École Nationale Supérieur des Beaux-Arts) and spent four years in Italy. He painted Renaissance-type nudes, rather cloying religious subjects and portraits of photographic verisimilitude. This probably explains why Renoir, on being fitted with new glasses to correct his myopia, threw them on the floor, crying: 'Bon Dieu', je vois comme Bouguereau!'

On his return to France he exhibited the Triumph of the Martyr (1853; Musée Lunéville, Lunéville) at the Salon of 1854. Its high finish, restrained colour and classical poses were to be constant features of his painting thereafter.

His reputation sank after his death and for many years his work was regarded as irredeemably empty and vulgar. However, he has recently achieved something of a rehabilitation, his work becoming the subject of serious study and fetching huge prices in the saleroom.