William-Adolphe Bouguereau

When William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) showed an early talent for art, his parents arranged for him to board with an uncle who was a priest, who could help him pursue an education.  His uncle shared his love for mythology and literature as well as religion, subjects which served the artist well all his life.  Attending art school in Bordeaux and then in Paris, Bouguereau learned the Academic style of painting, which emphasized training and discipline over spontaneity or inspiration.  In reward, his work was regularly shown at the prestigious annual Salon exhibitions throughout his career.  He was popular with the public, his fame in America growing just as it began to diminish in Europe, and he took a refreshingly populist point of view on the work he produced: “The public today prefers Venuses and Cupids, and as I paint to please the public, to Venus and Cupid I chiefly devote myself.”  This dedication to public taste—as well as to classical characters—led to his critical downfall later, when his rejection of modernist styles of painting made him seem old-fashioned.