1825 - 1905
William-Adolphe Bouguereau was a French realist painter, though his work had a distinctive classical quality: his subject matter is often very different from other French realists, such as Courbet, Breton, Millet and Corot. His work often draws inspirations from mythological art and Renaissance qualities in the representation of women. This style frequently lead to Bouguereau becoming a bit of a joke with his artistic contemporaries as a painter trapped in the past. With the simultaneous rise of impressionism, Bouguereau’s work became dated, despite him being one of France’s biggest artists during his peak.
Charity is a good example of Bouguereau’s love for tradition: notice the detailed background of classically-inspired marble architecture. With this observation, we can draw out Bouguereau’s intentions in placing the poor family in such a peaceful and pure surrounding.
Perhaps if you did not know the artist and you looked at the date The Virgin with Angels was painted, you might think that 1900 is a mistake: the composition and figures are so clearly inspired from previous movements, (perhaps this time a Baroque/Rococo mix?) When you see works like this from Bouguereau, it becomes hard to call him simply a realist.
The Virgin with Angels 1900
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