Prayer William-Adolphe Bouguereau Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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William Bouguereau was a traditionalist and academic painter. In many of his realistic paintings, he took on a mythological theme. He enjoyed creating a modern adaption of various classical subjects.

His work often emphasized the female body. In William’s life, he received honours and was celebrated in the United States as well as France. His paintings were top-priced and he was seen as the most important salon painter at the time.

On November 30, 1825, William-Adolphe Bouguereau was born. His parents were olive oil and wine merchants in France. William had two siblings – a younger sister, Marie, who passed away at the age of seven, and an older brother, Alfred. Later he would have another sister, Kitty, after they moved to Saint-Martin-de-Re. William was sent to live with a nature, literature and religion-loving priest when he was 12.

He then started studying to become a priest at a college in Pons. This is where he learned to paint and draw by a mentor named Louis Sage.

After returning to his family, reluctantly, he met Charles Marionneau, a local artist, leading William to study at the Municipal School or Drawing and Painting (1841). He quickly became one of the best students in his class. William then decided to pursue a career as an artist in Paris. Lacking the money to make to move to Paris, he proceeded to sell 33 portraits in the span of three months. All of the portraits, save one, have been lost – he never signed them.

The painting known as “Prayer” was one of William’s depictions of a young, innocent girl in a praying position with eyes opened. The portrait is in a neoclassicism style. It is an oil-and-canvas painting that was painted in 1878. Its original title is “La Priere”. Throughout his career, William painted 822 finished works. Many of these paintings’ locations are still unknown. Some of his most known paintings include The Birth of Venus and The Bohemian. He passed away on 19 August, 1905.