Saturday, March 26, 2011

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)

Dante and Virgil in Hell

During the revolution of the Impressionist movement, Bouguereau's anachronistic style was viewed rather negatively by those who cheered for the novelty of the likes of Degas, who was himself a harsh critic of Bouguereau. Even today, when the triumph of Impressionism in contemporary critical circles is nearly complete, Academic art is viewed as the old guard of its time, unable to move and unable to adept. Yet to me the whole matter stinks of envy; Bouguereau was a genius in his own fashion, whose original popularity and crispness should never have been held against him. 

The Rapture of Psyche


The Madonna of Roses

Birth of Venus



  1. I don't think one can argue that Bougereau's art wasn't crisp. It's about as crisp as you can get. He certainly mastered what he set out to do. Perhaps it's the subject matter he chose to paint that draws much of the criticism. I've heard it described as sentimental, and it seems to be somewhat limited. Children in gardens, satyrs, angels. There was a lot going on in the world from 1850-1900 and it doesn't seem like he was paying attention.

  2. Well, James, I don't think I can agree. The Pre-Raphaelites also focused largely on what might be viewed as sentimental subjects. A lot of the Impressionists, Sisley for example, never focused on any critical subjects. When I think about sentimentality, I don't think of Bouguereau, I think of Cassatt.