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William-Adolphe Bouguereau
French, 1825 - 1905

Young Priestess, 1902
French Painting
Oil on canvas
71 1/4 in. x 32 in. (180.98 cm x 81.28 cm)

Gift of Paul T. White in memory of Josephine Kryl White,  73.1

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About the Object

Devoid of narrative and almost sculptural in quality, Young Priestess is an artistic exploration of pure form, line and color. The fluid fabrics of the priestess’s garments and the drapery behind her contrast sharply with her pale flesh and the stone mosaic of the floor. The priestess, both life-size and life-like, gazes directly at the viewer and is an example of the photo-idealism that permeated Bouguereau’s work throughout his long career.  

Bouguereau painted Young Priestess at the age of 77, only three years before his death in 1905. His traditional painting style and choice of subject matter, reliant on classical, religious and genre themes, was rooted in the French academy and is the antithesis of Impressionism and modernism. His work was frequently derided by contemporary critics, to whom he responded: “A new art! But what for? Art is eternal…our art is the same as the art of all other times. One shouldn’t believe in all those so-called innovations. There is only one nature and one way to see it.”

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