Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: William Bouguereau: His Life and Works
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on August 6, 2014
To see more pictures from the book, please visit my blog via my Amazon profile link.

William Bouguereau : His Life and Works is a thick tome of an art book documenting the French academic painter's biography and lifetime of work, with over 500 pages of art work covering some 750 paintings in total.

The biggest draw of this book is the huge amount of reproductions collected, art work presented are mostly printed on individual pages and not spread across 2, which retains the integrity of the art work and allows for great appreciation. Colors can be a little over saturated and punchy, and some can be more crisp, but overall the quality is still great.

Technical note : There are numerous customer reviews on Amazon ( dated 2011 ) noting the weak binding used for the book, but this doesn't not seem to afflict the 2014 edition. My own observation is that the spine can be thicker for a book of such substantial size to make the build sturdier, but I don't consider it a "fatal" flaw; certainly not serious enough to pass up such a great collection of Bouguereau's work.

On another note, Amazon's item page lists the book's page count at 400 pages, which is incorrect. The book is 530 pages.

At the time of writing this review I do not believe there are any other art books on Bouguereau that comes close to the scope and sheer quantity of art work covered in this huge volume. My highest recommendations.
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on January 6, 2011
I held off writing a review because I did not have an actual copy in hand to warrant a completely fair assessment but with others experiencing the same problems with the glue used in the binding I figured it worthwhile to give some thought to those contemplating spending $300 to buy this set.

While I do not have a copy of my own, I did get the opportunity to thumb through one and in that particular specimen an entire block of pages had completely fallen apart from spine - even though the rest of the volume was brand new. At the time I thought this was a singular defect but now it (possibly?) appears to be endemic amongst the entire production run. I am curious how those 5 star reviewer's copies are holding up?

Aside from the questionable quality of the book's construction (which should never have been an issue for an item in this price range) I did not find anything special about the overall quality of the images either. Now, I can only pretend to grasp the difficultly in compiling a complete collection of Bouguereau's finished works - but for this reviewer's tastes - I thought this catalog contained far too many images that were either too small, in black and white, or contained colors that were off the mark (ie. too yellow/orange). I am told many catalog raisonnés suffer from this problem and one should be thankful to have the option of purchasing this book, but from the nauseatingly self-aggrandizing posts by the authors on Art Renewal Center you would think this was perhaps one of the greatest art history projects ever committed to paper. And if their investment piece hinting at the secondary market value of this book has any grain of truth in it, it is that a near-mint copy of this book with original binding will certainly carry a premium over all others.
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on December 24, 2010
This book is gorgeous but the materials used to bind it are cheap. I've looked through this book three or four times and the binding is already falling apart. Every time I open the front cover I can hear the glue cracking and tearing off the binding. Today I noticed a tear an inch long on the top right corner of the spine.

The book cover that is used is a black canvas textured paper. It's imitation to the black, canvas like cloth used in Singapore to bind the John Singer Sargent books or the two volume set of N.C. Wyeth. The Bouguereau book is heavy and with more than 500 pages the cover should be made with sturdier material that can withstand the size and weight.
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on January 3, 2011
This book is, for the most part, everything a Bouguereau admirer could have hoped for. In the few cases where images were less than perfect the fault was not the compiler's or the printer's. Many of these images are the only examples to be found. It is not difficult to believe this undertaking took decades to accomplish. This set should, by all rights, have received all of the 5 stars available, however, the production quality does not quite live up to the rest of the offering. The paper should have been heavier as many on the sheets, in the copy I purchased, already had small interior creases suggesting the lightest handling may cause damage. This is very annoying as it distracts from the pleasure of gazing at Bouguereau's magnificent work. The binding itself was not quite the quality one usually finds, and has come to expect, in books published by Antique Collectors Club. Volumes of this size and weight need VERY sturdy bindings. The slipcase could have been constructed a bit heavier as well. In addition to these criticisms the copy I received had a 5" scratch in the center of the slipcase directly on top of the affixed color image. Had I honestly believed another copy might be less problematic I would have returned this one. All that being said, I would again make this purchase as the contents of this collection are too breathtaking to be without. It is a shame that such a monumental effort should have been shortchanged in this fashion. With a little upgrade in materials there would not have been enough stars in the firmament to do it justice. Where's the pride?

2014 Update - Folks, don't hesitate to purchase this newest edition. At the price it's being offered at it's a steal. I bought my first set for $300 and never regretted it. I wish the price was this low when I made my purchase. Seriously, if you are a Bouguereau fan (and who in their right mind isn't) this is a no-brainer. Don't bother asking why they're practically giving these books away, just place your order NOW! Thanks Amazon & Thanks Antique Collectors Club.

BTW - I just did a side by side comparison between these two editions and I can't see any difference at all. They are identical in every respect. I bought an extra set as a gift it was such a good deal!

BTW (part 2) Looks like the price took a big jump. When I re-ordered this two vol. set it was $120.00. I don't know if it will go back down again?
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on July 7, 2011
A lovely book, but like many other reviewers I found the binding to be terrible. There were pages that were compleatly loose. The reproduction are good; would have been better on a higher quality coated paper. It has a number of illustrations not available elsewere (at least not that I have seen).
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on March 3, 2011
I was suprised to read some reviews complaining about the binding and page quality, being blissfully unaware of any such defects.
What I have been aware of is this being by far the best catalogue raisonne I have. The size, amount, and color quality of the reproductions is fantastic, especially when compared to most such volumes that are filled with small and/or predominately black and white reproductions. I have such a volume on the work of L'Hermitte, of whose art I also cannot get enough of. While that one is more broad in scope, covering pastels, drawings, and charcoals as well as paintings, the majority are shown in a very small black & white format. And when purchased years ago that one volume was at least as expensive as the two Bouguereau volumes.

It was a long time waiting for this labour of love to hit the press. The depth of scholarship and research justifies the wait. I do wish that this publication also included Bouguereau's incredible drawings as well as his studies, albeit some are included. That however was not the focus of this project, and I would not have wanted to wait another decade for those to be fully compiled before seeing all of these gorgeous paintings.
If you are at all a fan of Bouguereau, there is no reason not to get this two volume set while you can. It is a joy and an inspiration!
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on March 21, 2015
I purchased the 2 volume version of the 2014 edition. The single volume version of the 2014 edition is the same as the first book of the two volume 2014 edition, so I can review both versions. The books are excellent. All of the reproductions are printed with excellent resolution and quality. The paper and book construction are also high quality. The two volume edition comes with a sturdy slipcase. Some reviewers of the previous edition had poor binding quality, but I have not noticed any binding problems with my 2014 edition. I can strongly recommend the 2014 edition to anyone who likes Bouguereau.
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on December 28, 2015
One of the best art books I have. Beautiful quality images of Bouguereau's work. I am an artist, and this book is packed with information for me to study and thereby improve my skills. When I was in art school 35 years ago, he was hardly mentioned in my art history classes. I recall only studying one image he had painted. Turns out he was one of Europe's most important artists during the last half of the 19th Century. So glad to have learned about his work now. To me, this is an indispensable tool. Grateful for the Art Renewal Center's activity in confirming how important the realist genre is in promoting good moral values that are timeless and promotes true beauty.
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on June 20, 2014
Bouguereau has always been a controversial figure in the history of art. Even in the 19th century, he was praised for his extraordinary technical skill and decried for his tendency to cater to a less-than-sophisticated collector population, mostly American, male and very wealthy. French critics of the annual Salons often noted his generic and largely emotionless or emotionally shallow characterizations, and his tendency to stick to highly conventional subjects and themes. With the rise of Modernism, he became a whipping-boy representation of all that was allegedly empty and hide-bound about the established Academy stranglehold. In the 20th century, these streams converged, and he became a sort of shorthand for the shallow pretentiousness of America's Gilded-Age wealthy, and the equally shallow freshets of an exhausted French idealism.

For decades, there's been a need for a really sober, critically and intellectually sophisticated evaluation of the painter and his "industry," and to have that happen, there needed also to be a sophisticated and exhaustive catalogue raisonne from which to make such an assessment. This was what might have been, but not what this two-volume tome offers. Instead, we have a supremely uncritical celebration of all things Bouguereau, funded and championed by one of his most ardent collector-speculators, and a cluster of lesser speculators, clustered around the sponsoring institution that has published this work. As a consequence, while there is a great deal of value to the materials here collected, there is none of the restrained impeccable judgment that one hopes for in good art history. The biographical volume is exhaustive, but it's not critically deep or culturally sophisticated. Instead there are passages that extol his patriotism, that report his alacrity in taking out an insurance policy on his house and properties as the 1870 Siege of Paris loomed, that decry the critics who "did not scruple to spread the most silly rumors and most improbably gossip about him..." etc. etc. Scholars seeking deepened understanding of 19th century French painting and its milieu, historians seeking to understand the traffic in culture between America and Europe, those with the curiosity and the means to make the substantial investment in this work will find it regrettably indispensable. Reproductions are superb; the images are more than one could wish for, particularly in the biographical volume; the facts and data typical of a substantial scholarly catalogue raisonne will be found to be spotty and even suspect.
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on January 14, 2015
The version I bought is sturdy and has a good binding. (I think I remember reading an early version had problems). The quality of the printing of the paintings is excellent. They are large and gorgeous. The paper is very high quality. There is considerable narrative of his life and painting but there are so many plates you don't mind at all. The bits and pieces of the biography that I read were well written and interesting. This was obviously a labor of love. I highly recommend buying it.
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