Bouguereau and the Impressionists

December 13th, 2012 | posted by Deborah Choate

Secrets de l’Amour by William Adolphe Bouguereau

The holidays are in full swing here in the French Quarter, and that means decorations, parades and parties! It is also a special time here at the gallery as we recently opened our very first exhibition Impressionism: Influences & Impact. Showcased are impressionist masters like Claude Monet, Alfred Sissley and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, along with artists like Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, who influenced them, and Vincent van Gogh, who was inspired by the revolutionary movement.

You may instantly recognize Secrets de l’Amour (Cupid’s Secrets) as the work of one of the most decorated artists of the 19th century, William Adolphe Bouguereau. With the influence of light and color from the Impressionists, Bouguereau painted classically themed portraits of women. This masterpiece is the ultimate expression of Bouguereau’s artistic ideals and even features his favorite model, Odile Charpentier.

The artist’s passion for the classical past is felt powerfully in this exceptional composition that depicts a coy cupid draped over a young woman’s shoulder, which he appears to be advising in matters of the heart. Finessed with the utmost academic rigor to which Bouguereau was dedicated, this painting also seems to have a deeply personal significance as it was painted the same year he married his long-time love Elizabeth Gardner.

Bouguereau received tremendous acclaim during his lifetime; he so dominated the Salons of the Third Republic that the official Salon became known unofficially as “Le Salon Bouguereau”. He is still highly sought-after today and his works are held in a number of prestigious private collections, as well as museums around the world.

We are fortunate to have this stunning piece in our collection, and as one of the gems of the exhibition. If you are in the New Orleans area, I encourage you to visit the gallery and explore the fascinating history of Impressionism. Impressionism: Influences & Impact runs until Janurary 4, 2013 and more information can be found here.

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