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A French painter, born in La Rochelle in 1825, Bouguereau studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and was awarded the Grand Prix de Rome in 1850. His favourite subjects were scenes from mythology and allegorical religious and genre themes, which he rendered in the glossy, pseudo-classic style that was favoured by the academic painters of his time.
With the advent of Impressionism at the end of the 19th century, his stylised, sentimental paintings were rejected by the public and critics alike, though his style, with an extreme eclecticism and slick, almost photographic realism is highly respected. Bouguereau was one of the key supporters of The Salon, the first official art exhibition held in France and limited to members of the Royal Academy.

The term Salon derived from the Salon d'Apollon, in the Louvre, where the annual exhibitions were first held. Until the 19th century the limited number of artists who were allowed to show at these salon exhibitions had a monopoly on publicity and sales of art. After his death in 1905, his work was all but forgotten for many years. Later his paintings were returned to view as part of a renewed interest in academic painting and of Ecole des Beaux-Arts works in general.

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William Bouguereau

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