William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s ADMIRATION at the Arkansas Arts Center through May 15

Now through May 15, the Arkansas Arts Center has a special piece of artwork on display!

William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Admiration is in the Ted and Virginia Bailey Gallery.

Adoring young women gather around the youthful, winged figure of Cupid, the Roman god of love. The immortal boy playfully points his amorous arrow at a lovely maid who clasps her bosom as if the dart of love has, indeed, struck home. The beautifully crafted painting, its figures rendered with ideal proportions in flawless perspective, was clearly produced by a master. This painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau displays the results as his training in the highest academic manner of the mid-19th century at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and other academies.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, French (La Rochelle, France 1825 – 1905, La Rochelle, France), Admiration, 1897, oil on canvas, 58 x 78 in., Bequest of Mort D. Goldberg to the San Antonio Museum of Art, 59.46.

In 1850, the young artist won the Premier Grand Prix de Rome, the top academic art prize of the day, which enabled him to study classical art in Rome for four years. This began his career as the leading French academic artist of his day; he triumphantly exhibited year after year in the massive annual exhibition known as the Salon. While classical subject matter was supposedly the most proper and edifying material an academic artist of the 19th century could portray, Bouguereau’s success arose at least partially from his ability to infuse a sense of naughty fun into his classical nude figures. That is certainly on display in this delightfully sensual image, which was a success both at the Paris Salon of 1899 and the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900.

This great neoclassical painting comes as a special loan from the San Antonio Museum of Art in exchange for an earlier loan from the Arkansas Arts Center of its 1914 Cubist masterpiece, Dos Mujers, painted by Diego Rivera when the Mexican artist was working in Paris early in his career. Admiration will be accompanied by a related drawing by Bouguereau. The painting and drawing will be complemented by a selection of academic figure drawings from the Arkansas Arts Center’s acclaimed collection of original works on paper. These will allow viewers to see how academic artists drew to study the figure so they could achieve the mastery we see in Bouguereau’s painting.