William-Adolphe Bouguereau was born in La Rochelle, France, on November 30, 1825 into a family of wine and olive oil merchants. He showed artistic talent early on. He went to the École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux.
Bouguereau went to Paris and became a student at the École des Beaux-Arts. He won the Prix de Rome in 1850.His stay in Italy influenced the rest of his career. He exhibited at the annual Paris salon during his entire career.
In 1856, he married Marie-Nelly Monchablon and subsequently had five children. Bouguereau gained the honors of the Academy; Life Member in 1876, and Commander of the Legion of Honor and Grand Medal of Honor in 1885. He began to teach drawing at the Académie Julian in 1875, an institution independent of the École des Beaux-Arts.
In 1877, both his wife and infant son died.Bouguereau was married a second time in 1896, to his pupil Elizabeth Jane Gardner.On August 19,1905, Bouguereau died in La Rochelle at the age of 79 of heart disease
During his lifetime Bouguereau was considered to be one of the greatest painters in the world by the Academic art community. On the other hand he was disputed by the avantgardist painters like the Impressionists.
Bouguereau's works were eagerly collected in the late 19th century by wealthy art patrons who considered him the most important French artist of the 19th century. After 1920, Bouguereau fell into disrepute, due in part to changing tastes and partly to his opposition to the Impressionists who were now en vogue. Bouguereau's popularity has seen a great revival.Bouguereau's works are in many public collections such as Musee d’Orsay in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Paintings by Bouguereau are now in great demand at record breaking prices.