Major Artist Now Neglected

by Matthew Raley

"Meditation," Adolphe-William Bouguereau, 1885, Joslyn Art Museum
"Meditation," Adolphe-William Bouguereau, 1885, Joslyn Art Museum

Before dinner last evening, my friend Dr. Tim Heinze and I were discussing Adolphe-William Bouguereau (1825-1905), who rose to prominence in the French painting establishment at precisely the moment the impressionist movement was building up a head of steam.

The impressionists went from holding rogue exhibitions during the Paris Salon to conquering the art world, while the refined traditions of the establishment lost their dominance. In other words, the spotlights of contemporary prominence lit Bouguereau’s way into historical obscurity.

The overthrow of refinement in favor of passion had many more casualties in the arts, and we see even the concept of beauty regarded with odium today. The art world refreshes itself in these convulsions, I suppose, but the ideological derision often thrown at talented people who don’t repeat the party line is ugly, whether the derision comes from the establishment or the rogues.

At least the art itself lives on for our enjoyment.

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