La Rochelle, November 30th 1825 – August 19th 1905, La Rochelle
Although the name on his birth certificate is Adolphe William, he is commonly known by the name signed on his paintings: William Bouguereau.
Adolphe William Bouguereau, born to a Catholic English family and son of a Bordeaux wine dealer, learned drawing at the “Ecole municipale de dessin et de peinture de Bordeaux” (Bordeaux City drawing and painting school). His art education was completed at the “Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris” (Beaux-Arts school of Paris) under his master, François Edouard Picot (1786-1868).
Influenced by Ingres (1780-1867) and Raphael (1483-1520), Bouguereau was awarded the Rome Second prize in 1848 and the First prize in 1850. He also received the medal of “Grand Officer of the Legion d’Honneur”. In 1866 the art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, furthered Bouguereau’s career by selling several paintings to collectors, many of whom were American. For example, at the retrospective career exhibition at the 1878 International Exhibition of Paris, the Organization found only twelve Bouguereau paintings in France, with the remainder located in the United States.
William Bouguereau signed a contract with the Goupil Editing Company to sale engraved duplications of his paintings.
The 1870 New York Durand-Ruel gallery exhibition was a fund raising action for the fighting France. The collected money, approx. 1500F, was used to help inhabitants of villages being damaged during the war.
In 1888, William Bouguereau was appointed professor at the Paris Beaux-Arts School and at the Paris Julian academy. His students included several well-known artists, including Léon Bazile (1832-1924), Guillaume Seignac (1870-1924) and Elizabeth Jane Gardner-Bouguereau (1837-1922). During his active years, Bouguereau’s common-life, realistic or mythological theme paintings were exhibited every year at the Salon de Paris. A prolific painter, Bouguereau was one of the favorite artists of the Second Empire, the Third Republic and, even more, wealthy American art lovers. However, the impressionists didn’t appreciate the William Bouguereau’s work. Degas criticized his paintings as being “bougreautized”. Cezanne complained about “the Bouguereau Paris Salon” where the new wave painting style had been rejected. The famous writers Emile Zola and Karl Huysmans disparaged him in their Salon critic articles.
William Bouguereau married in 1896, late in life. His son, Georges William died in the village of Ecouen at the age of fifteen.
In November 18th 1893, François Paul Seignac and his wife Anna Auguste Salemke sold, for 25000 F, to Adolphe William Bouguerau, Artist painter, member of the Institut, living in Paris, a 1200 square-meters property located 8 “rue de l’Abrevoir” (horse pond), next to theirs.
For further information, please read the book “L’Ecole d’Ecouen, une colonie de peintres au XIXéme siècle”, unfortunately only available in French for the time being (but we are working on it).