William-Adolphe Bouguereau was one of the most successful artists during France's Second Empire. He attended the Ecoles des Beaux-Arts, France's most prestigious art school, and kept books for a local wine merchant and coloured lithographic labels for a grocer. He would often draw late into the night. His hard work paid off when he won Prix de Rome in 1850. This enabled him to study art in Italy for three years.
Upon returning to France in 1854, Bouguereau became an influential exponent of academic art. He was elected to the French Academy in 1876, a position he sought his entire career. Bouguereau was also a highly respected teacher who would often help students with financial difficulties. He later married a student of his, American painter Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau.
In the twentieth century Bouguerau's work fell out of favour with critics although it is now regaining recognition. His work can be seen in museums throughout Europe and America, and fetches huge prices.
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