Inspiration by Bouguereau

So much about language learning is culture, and I’m in the mood for a cultural post this evening.  This time, we will focus on the French painter Bouguereau (born in La Rochelle in 1825, and died in 1905), who I first came across in one of the most eloquent and inspiring blog posts I have read, How-to-Fly by the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood.  The post is illustrated with what has possibly become my favourite art by Bouguereau, perfect for the theme of the article, where the author describes, in beautiful metaphor, the process of being true to oneself and then acting on that truth.  The profound and mystical quality of the paintings chosen complement the text perfectly.

La Vierge aux Anges by Bouguereau (Detail via Pinterest)

Though he does not receive much attention now, Bouguereau was famous in his time.  His paintings were popular not only in France, but across Europe and in the United States.  Their style was considered to be traditionalist and of the realistic genre, with many having described it as like that of the Pre-Raphaelites (British painters of roughly the same period).  Themes of his work included mythology, allegory and religion (both pagan and Christian).  Death is a recurrent theme in his paintings (there was much tragedy in his life).  However life, light and love make plenty of appearances too…

‘Loin du Pays’ by Bouguereau (Translates as ‘Far from Home’)

According to the Britannica article, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, some modern critics suggest that Bouguereau sacrificed originality for a highly-polished technique.  Yet, I find that when Bouguereau paintings appear as suggestions on my Pinterest account, I can see that they are his!  So I think he’s pretty original!  He has also been dissed for being superficial.  Again, I disagree.  For me, his work has much soul.  Just look at the faces that make an appearance in his paintings, each is unique and even contemporary, transcending time.  He also deals with moving topics that go well below the surface, such as in ‘Loin du Pays’ (‘Far from Home’).

My only little criticism is that apparently he was an enemy of the French impressionists, having been influential in keeping them out of the Paris Salon, the art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  How could he not have loved Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare?  A blog post on at least one of the impressionist artists will follow soon…

What do you think of Bouguereau?  Do you know of any other hidden gems of the French art world?