The world of art can be just as fickle as any other area of civilization, and if there are victims of such fickleness then William-Adolphe Bouguereau might be considered one of them. Adored by the ruling class of his day, yet despised by the growing population of "avant garde" painters, he fell out of fashion soon after is death in 1905, and by the 1920s was no longer mentioned in most reference books or art encyclopedias.
Luckily, his skill and great artistic achievement have once again been recognized and his works are on display in over one hundred museums throughout the world. Additionally, his romantic themes and fanciful images have made him popular with the modern public who seeks out prints and copies of many of his most well-known canvases. During his life he painted eight hundred and twenty six individual paintings.
Why was the artist disliked by his contemporaries? Because Bouguereau was a traditionalist, and a deep admirer of the painter Raphael, his work tends to have a detailed and photo realistic appearance. This was incredibly desirable for the wealthy classes seeking portraiture and for the genre paintings that Bouguereau exhibited, but not at all liked by the artists who would come to be known as the Impressionists.
Bouguereau's primary themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects or stories, with a great deal of attention on the female body. He relied on religious symbolism or erotic undercurrents to convey specific messages in his work, and many of his contemporaries preferred realistic subject matter and greatly disliked his technical methods. During this time the art world was facing turbulence as groups like the Pre-Raphaelites and the later Impressionists were looking to different subject matter and applying less traditional techniques to painting and art.
While Bouguereau remained a beloved figure of the Academic art world and the general public during his lifetime, today he is not as well known as those contemporaries who did not like his work. The Impressionist school's most well known names, including Monet and Degas, are more frequently discussed than Bouguereau's, though he won a great deal of professional acclaim during his career, including a Grand Medal of Honor, and Life Membership in the Academy.