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Tender Bouguereau portrait offered at Bonhams after generations with prominent American family
William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905), A portrait of Eva and Frances Johnston. Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32in (100.3 x 81.3cm). Est $400,000-600,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.
NEW YORK, NY.- Bonhams 19th Century European Paintings sale on May 7 will feature a tender composition by William Adolphe Bouguereau, entitled A Portrait of Eva and Frances Johnston (est. $400,000-600,000). The expertly rendered painting depicts the daughters of railroad tycoon and prominent American art collector John Taylor Johnston - one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its original president. The portrait has remained within the family ever since Johnston commissioned it in 1869.

Johnston’s selection of Bouguereau for the portrait of Eva and Frances is a testament to the artist’s tremendous reputation in the 19th century. Bouguereau enjoyed immense success during his lifetime, and was considered the most important French Academic painter of his day. He won the coveted Prix de Rome scholarship at the mere age of 26, and his classical subjects were hugely popular at the Paris Salon. He soon attracted the attention of American millionaires, such as Johnston, whose own collection included works by Thomas Cole, Eastman Johnson, JMW Turner, and Paul Delaroche, among others.

The portrait has been widely published, most recently in Bartoli and Ross’ William Bouguereau: Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Work in 2010.

Bonhams European Paintings Specialist Madalina Lazen commented, “Johnston no doubt chose Bouguereau for this immensely personal commission because of his remarkable technical expertise, meticulous draftsmanship, and overall affinity for elegance. The portrait overflows with splendid details, embodying Bouguereau’s highly refined academic style. It is a pleasure to offer this superb painting after more than 140 years in private hands.”

Bonhams will offer A Portrait of Eva and Frances Johnston in New York during the 19th Century European Paintings sale on May 7. The sale will preview at Bonhams May 3-7.

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