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Old 07-07-2008, 03:18 PM   #8
Richard Bingham Richard Bingham is offline
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Joined: Jan 2006
Location: Blackfoot Id
Posts: 431
Thanks for sharing that experience, David!

It's well to remember that as recently as 30-40 years ago, Allen Funt (originator of TVs "Candid Camera") was buying Bouguereaus, Fochs and the works of other top tier painters of the Gilded Age at unbelievably low prices . . . mostly for the purpose of ridiculing them as "kitsch", and to thumb his nose at "knowledgeable art collectors" who wouldn't have touched them with a barge pole.

While his magnificent "Nymphs and Satyr" sold for $10,000 in 1873 - (the equivalent of $400,000 in gold today) then graced the barroom of Hoffman House in NYC, (watering hole of presidents, senators, the super-wealthy - "the" place to be) the Clarks bought it for $5k in the 1940's (far less than a quarter of its original value, adjusted for inflation).

At the end of his life, Bouguereau was already well on the way to becoming obscure; reviled and ridiculed by the modernists, post-modernists and all who followed as a prime example of "bad taste" and "what was wrong with academic art", when he was mentioned at all.

When I was in art school, (early '70s) of the art history courses I took, the only reference to Bouguereau and the mainstream of 19th Century art of which he was the fore-front, was a single footnote in one of the sizeable required textbooks ( "Mainstreams of Modern Art" - the name says it all) which excoriated Bouguereau et al for their insipid, sentimental, formulaic and superficial work without so much as an accompanying illustration - perhaps the authors felt their hard-sell wouldn't play as well in the face of an actual example.

Appreciation for Bouguereau and 19th century academic art in general is a relatively new and tentative facet of art history and appreciation since 1900, as it flies in the face of the established "party line" to which most university art programs adhere . . . at least in this country. Apparently he's not doing all that well in France, either.

Hilstory will eventually be "fair", I think. Even Rembrandt was reviled in his own time, and obscure to forgotten for long years afterward. Vermeer's small opus was lost entirely to view for over a century. Fads come and go and tastes change with the times. What is truly worthy in the art of the centuries eventually comes to the fore, to be appreciated as having intrinsic merit.
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