Bouguereau was one of the most successful, artists of his time. Early in his career Bouguereau entered paintings over several years for the prestigious Prix de Rome.
In 1850 he finally gained a three-year scholarship to the Villa Medici, in Rome, where, in addition to more formal classes, he was able to study the works of the Renaissance masters as well as those of Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquity.
On returning to France, in 1854, he gained success by painting in a traditional academic style and exhibiting works at the Paris Salon. Bouguereau used long-standing traditional ways of developing a painting.
Detailed pencil drawings and oil sketches together with his skilful and fastidious methods enabled him to produce representations of the human body that were admired for their accuracy as well as their beauty.
He created in his paintings a dream-like world of country girls, naked bathers, nymphs, madonnas and goddesses that wealthy patrons of the arts found very appealing.
The painting, “Berceuse” is a delightful example of Bouguereau's more domestic works. It shows a mother sitting in a rural landscape rocking her baby's cradle as she works at spinning thread.
The title of the painting, “Berceuse” suggests that she is also singing a lullaby to her sleeping child at whom her calm, loving gaze is directed. The composition is strongly reminiscent of a Madonna and Child and the painting as a whole is beautifully executed.
We can see from this painting that Bouguereau was a master of traditional academic painting and he had wide appeal, in France and abroad, during his lifetime.
His approach to art, was however, heavily criticised by the rising impressionist painters, many of whom found much of their work rejected by the Salon.
After his death his reputation fell steeply and his paintings were no longer admired but were seen as vacuous or overly sentimental. It is only in recent decades that his work has begun to be re-evaluated and his paintings, such as “Berceuse” appreciated once more for the skill, artistry and dedication that Bourguereau brought to his work.