He was born in La Rochelle and studied in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His painting style is Academical Realism. Bouguereau is best known for his lively and often sensuous figures — both clothed and nudes. His realistic genre paintings and epic scale mythological compositions were modern interpretations of Classical subjects, both pagan and Christian. The idealized world of his paintings, and his almost photo-realistic style, brought to life goddesses, nymphs, bathers, shepherdesses, and madonnas in a way that appealed to wealthy art patrons of the era.
In his own time, Bouguereau was considered to be one of the greatest painters on earth and his paintings (more than 800) were eagerly bought, at high prices, especially by American millionaires. However he fell into disregard in the 1920s when Academic painting became disregarded in favor of more modern art styles such as Impressionism. For decades, his name was not even mentioned in encyclopedias.
He died in 1905 in La Rochelle, where he was born. Bouguereau's work, and realistic academic painting in general, found new appreciation and many new fans since the 1990s, such as on the Art Renewal Center website.
- Émile Munier (student of Bouguereau)