Along with Alexandre Cabanel, William-Adolphe Bouguereau was the most influential upholder of the conservative values of French academic art in his day. His paintings stress those values: precise drawing, contour, and finish, along with strict adherence to the rules of anatomy, perspective, academic modeling, and physiognomic expression in which internal character is revealed by outward appearance. An heir of Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Bouguereau's subjects included Classical, mythological, allegorical, or Orientalist themes, as well as contemporary history. Most of his works were popularly known through engravings.
From 1843 to 1850, Bouguereau studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, winning the Prix de Rome in 1850. When he returned from Rome, Bouguereau decorated several great houses, drawing his inspiration from the frescoes at Pompeii and Herculaneum. He was awarded a medal of honor at the Paris exhibition of 1878 and in the 1885 Salon. Bouguereau's academic renderings were highly regarded by many of his contemporaries, but they were exactly what the Impressionists rebelled against. When Pierre-Auguste Renoir was being fitted with new glasses to correct his myopia, he threw the spectacles on the floor, crying: Bon Dieu, je vois comme Bouguereau!("Good God, I see like Bouguereau!")