William Bouguereau was born on the west coast of France into a family of wine merchants.
At the age of 21 William went to Paris to train in the studio of François-Edouard Picot and, after only two months of tutoring there, at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Bouguereau was chosen as a contestant for the Prix de Rome in the years of 1848 and 1849, and awarded the Prix de Rome in 1850.
His work was very popular with both public and the critics. He was awarded an imperial commission in 1856, resulting in the canvas Napoleon III Visiting the Floods of Tarascon.