One of the best things to have happened to the art world in recent years was the founding in 1999 of the Art Renewal Center (ARC) to present responsible opposing views to the Modernist art establishment. It is now well financed and expanding fast, its online museum already housing 65,000 images and attracting 400,000 visitors a month. It is using the resources of the Internet to build up an encyclopaedic collection of essays and biographies, and supports over sixty ateliers, schools and programmes teaching painting in the traditional way. It also helps finance important projects, such as this sumptuous study of the French realist painter William Bouguereau, which has been produced in conjunction with another valuable fine art institution, the Antique Collectors Club. Much of the work was done, before his death, by Damien Bartoli, who devoted a great part of his life to collecting and studying Bouguereau, and the book was completed by Frederick C Ross, a pillar of ARC. It consists of a 515-page Life and Works and an accompanying catalogue raisonné. The scholarship is thorough and the colour illustrations of the highest quality. This is indeed a treasure of a book.
Bouguereau was born in La Rochelle in 1825 and died there nearly eighty years later. He occupies roughly the same position in French painting as Lord Leighton in England. He trained locally and in Paris, then won the Prix de Rome and worked in that city for a