History is written by winners; the defeated are left out of it, hopelessly condemned to be forgotten. It's a pity, because History, in order to be as accurate as possible, should be a reflection of the events that really took place and the people, at times contradictory, that took part in them. This is also true when it comes to Art and it often happens that artists, works of art or artistic movements become so famous that others pale by comparison and are often forgotten.
At the end of the 19th century, Impressionism revolutionized painting and paved the way to Modernism. Evetually, traditonal painting, still attached to accademic values that came into effect during Renaissance. Thus, History focused on the importance of Impressionist painters and forgot everyone else.
Such was the case of William-Adolphe Bouguereau, who lived at the same time as Monet, Renoir and Degas and was unfairly forgotten at the beginning of the 20th century. In his time, though, Bouguereau was considered one of France's finest painters, inclusively by his Impressionist peers. This might seem ironic, but it's a good account of the painter's popularity at the time.
Bouguereau was, openly, a Realist artist with accademic traing at the École de Beaux-Arts in Paris and kept painting in the same style throughout his entire lifetime. Like every good artist at the Academy, he earned the prestigious Prix de Rome, in 1850, a prize won only by the best, among the best. His minute, almost photograph-like style earned him official recognition and the presence at the Salon de Paris, a priveleged exposition place at the Accademy.
He dedicated his work almost exclusively to mythological themes and portraits of women and children - these, I think, are his best work. Recently, Bouguereau has been rescued from the obscurity he's been living in for the past century...