William Bouguereau is considered a most unusual artist because he is either loved and revered or despised and rejected. His active period occurred during the Pre-Raphaelite period of art; this era refers to a group of English painters ELIZABETH GARDNERof the Victorian era who wanted to return to the art form before the time of the Renaissance painter, Raphael. Some include Bouguereau in this genre because of the overlap of time and subject matter of the idealization of beauty, generally mostly secular, with some religious themes. Actually William Bouguereau does not belong to the Pre-Raphaelites in that he was deemed too much of a traditionalist in the French style and a realist. And, too, he was not English. While the Pre-Raphaelites painted for themselves and those of their class, Bouguereau sought to bring art to the middle class, his themes established for this purpose. His portraits lent themselves to family and pastoral life more readily than did many, although by no means all of the pieces of the Pre-Raphaelites who thought of themselves as progressive. While they did not hold him in high regard, the people did. When Bouguereau died in 1905, his art was popular with dealers in both Europe and America. Unfortunately, some of the dealers changed the titles of a few of the pieces to suit a more secular outlook. This is why one comes across various names for the same work; for instance, the portrait of Our Lady with the young Christ and His cousin, St. John the Baptist was altered to Fraternal Charity.

Bouguereau remained a Catholic and was known as a devoted family man, even more than to his art work which he loved. He was born into a family of wine and olive oil dealers and was expected to join the family run business, of moderate prosperity. He did so out of duty for a brief period, but his uncle, a priest, intervened so that William could study art, which changed the direction of his life forever. He married and he and his wife had five children. Three of the children and his wife died young; he remained a widower for many years, marrying again in later life to a younger woman from America and an artist in her own right, Elizabeth Jane Gardner, who died in 1922. She painted themes and as traditional as he did. This is the portrait that William executed of his second wife in 1879, before they married. We have provided two examples of Elizabeth Gardner's work: IN THE GARDEN and THE FRAMER'S DAUGHTER.

Although a devout Catholic and family man, William Bouguereau was very much a part of artistic ideas of his time, wherein nude themes prevailed along with the celebration of the mythic and there is no shortage of such work in compendia of his artistry. However, pastoral scenes depicting women and children predominate. He was eclectic, but a sincere man who wanted to promote the beauty of the family.

The gallery we exhibit in his honor consists largely of secular pastoral portraits; we do have as many of his religious works as we could acquire copies of; some works were beyond our means to obtain.