Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau (Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau)

Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau

Artist. She was the first woman to exhibit a painting at the world-famous Paris Salon, and the first American woman to be awarded a gold medal by the French Academy. Her forte was domestic scenes featuring women and children, lovingly detailed in the Academic manner. Elizabeth Jane Gardner was born in Exeter,  New Hampshire,  and had initial art training at the Lasell Seminary (now Junior College) in Auburndale,  Massachusetts.  In 1865 she went to Paris to study painting,  only to find that French art schools were closed to women.  Undaunted,  she cut her hair and enrolled as a man at the Gobelin Drawing School,  where her teacher was the famed William Bouguereau.  Gardner’s ruse fooled no one for long but she was accepted by the faculty and her fellow students,  who called her “the droll American”.  In fact,  she and the married Bouguereau fell in love,  and in 1868 she took a studio next door to his in Montparnasse.  Bouguereau’s first wife died in 1877,  but he was unable to marry Gardner for nearly 20 years because of the objections of his mother.  In the meantime Gardner pursued her career as the most successful woman painter in Paris.  It was undoubtedly at her insistence that the conservative Bouguereau,  who was President of the Society of French Artists,  opened the doors of the Academy Julien and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts to women students.  They finally married after his mother’s death in 1896;  she was 59,  he was 71.  Gardner set her artwork aside during her marriage but resumed painting after Bouguereau died in 1905.  About 40 of her paintings are known to exist. (bio by: Bobb Edwards)


  • October, 04, 1837


  • January, 01, 1922


  • Cimetière de Montparnasse
  • France

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