William Bouguereau (30 November 1825 - 19 August 1905) was a French academic painter. Bouguereau was dedicated traditionalist, studying the Old Masters at the Villa Medici in 1848 after winning the Prix de Rome, and was an unparalleled master of anatomy. He is best known for his life size nudes of mythological figures and his photorealistic style.
During his life, he was considered one of the greatest painters to have ever lived and was very popular amongst art collectors and millionaires of the time. Unfortunately, his life coincided with the rise of the Impressionists who, although not incredibly respected at the time, gained popularity around the time of Bouguereau's death in 1905 and so his brilliant works were more or less forgotten and his name omitted from text books detailing the history of art of this time period.
It wasn't until the 1960s when he was "rediscovered". From there his paintings went from selling for as little as $500 to the year 2000 when his painting Charite sold at a record level of $3,520,000.
It is unlikely to be a coincidence that his photorealistic style developed during the advent of photography. Though his highly finished style was criticized by the Impressionists as being artificial, Bouguereau's dreamlike paintings have a breathtaking beauty that leaves the camera impotent.