Biography of William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)

French painter born in La Rochelle (Charente Maritime department) on November 30, 1825 and died in the same city on August 19, 1905. Neoclassical painter, was formed in Paris and Rome. He/She drew numerous portraits and subject classical or religious pictures, and decorated several Parisian churches, always with a carefully finished. Many of his works were displayed at the annual exhibition of painting in Paris, and from 1875 he/she gave painting classes at a Parisian Academy.

He was a disciple between 1838 and 1841 of Louis Sage, who had had as master Jean Auguste Ingres. In 1841 the family moved to Bordeaux, and Boguereau began the next year to attend the Ecole Municipale de Dessin et Peinture ('Municipal School of drawing and painting'), with Jean-Paul Alaux as Professor. He/She won a prize in 1844 and decided to dedicate himself professionally to painting; However, it had no means of settling in Paris, so of 1845 to 1846 he/she painted portraits to reunite them. He/She also worked, in the evening, as accounting for a merchant of wines and, at the time working sketches carried out mentally. Finally, in 1846 entered the École des Beaux-Arts (School of fine arts) in Paris, in the Studio of François-Édouard Picot, clearly academic style. One of his paintings of the time was equal (1848).

In 1850 he/she won the Grand Prix of Rome by Zenobia box discovered on the banks of the Araxes River. That same year he/she settled in this city, at the Villa Medici. It remained there until 1854, learning from Jean Alaux and Victor Schnetz, and studied in depth the painting of Giotto; You also interested in the works of several Italian Renaissance painters. Returning to France, exhibited in the Paris Salon of painting of 1854 the triumph of the martyr. Painted in Rome in 1853, its theme was the transfer of the body of Santa Cecilia to his tomb in the catacombs of his name, and had all the characteristics of his painting: initial sketches in oil, moderate colors and figures in classical postures. In 1856 he/she was commissioned by the French Government to paint Napoleón III by visiting victims of the flood of Tarascon of 1856, a historical theme. He/She also painted dance (1850); Brotherly love (1851); The dance (1856); Spring (1858) and the day of all Saints (1859).

In 1859 decorated the consistence of San Luis of the Parisian church of Santa Clotilde in part: under the direction of Picot, represented several scenes from the life of King Luis IX of France. It continued also to send pictures to the Paris Salon; in 1865, indigent family, meant the adoption of popular songs, although always idealized. In 1867 he/she made the ceiling decoration of the chapels of San Pedro and Pablo and San Juan Bautista of the Church of San Agustín (Paris). In 1869 he/she did the same on the ceiling room of concerts of the Grand Theatre of Bordeaux. Other pictures from this period are rest at Harvest (1865); The return of the spring (1866); Offering of Thanksgiving (1867); Art and literature (1867); and girl weaving (1869).

In the 1970s, coinciding with his teaching at the Academy Julian in Paris (since 1875), gave his paintings more light (e.g. in nymphs and satyr (1873)); also, in many of them, included children's figures (ride on donkey (1878). From 1881 to 1889 he/she was especially in decoration, with scenes from the life of Christ, the chapel of the Virgin in the Church of San Vicente de Paúl (Paris). At the same time other pictures, he/she made as a young Bacchus (1884). In 1888 he/she was appointed Professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but he/she continued painting until his death. He/She devoted himself also to the portrait (Aristide Boucicart, 1875).

Other paintings of the 1970s were: the first kiss (1873); Cupid (1875); The secret (1876); Return of Harvest (1878); Soul carried to Heaven (1878); Charity (1878); Rest (1879) and the birth of Venus (1879). From the 1980s onwards he/she painted wreath of flowers (1884); Shepherdess (1889); Small Shepherdess (1891); Invading the Kingdom of Cupid (1892); Innocence (1893); The abduction of psyche (1895); Young Shepherdess (1895); The Virgin with angels (1900); Young Priestess (1902) and La Virgen de las Rosas (1903).

His considerable work (more than seven hundred pictures) was characteristically academic: technique refined for many previous sketches, good finish (who looked after with care), varied colorful, narrative and sentimental theme from classical perspective. It was popular in France for some time, including the Court of Napoleón III, but was somewhat on the sidelines because of the growing appreciation by new styles like Impressionism, which had curiously vetoed for the Paris Salon as to that style pictures missing them finished. That did not prevent his paintings were purchased in large numbers by American and British collectors. Current art scholars consider it an important 19th century painter. Very worker and methodical, helped many young painters to continue his artistic career.


D'ARGENCOURT, l. and others. William Bouguereau. Exhibition catalogue. (Paris: 1984).

LACK, R. Bouguereau completo Legacy to the Student of Painting. (Minneapolis: 1982).

Oeuvres italiennes of Bouguereau. Exhibition catalogue. (Lyon: 1948).

Links on the Internet ; Page with tab and image of Boguereau (in Spanish).; Page of the WebMuseum, with brief biography and photographs of nearly a dozen of his works (in English). ; Page from the CGFA virtual museum, with biography and photographs of some thirty of his works (in English).