Fred Ross from the Art Renewal Center argues that anything by Bouguereau trumps anything by Picasso -- or any of the moderns.
Where the moderns bring ugliness, here there is beauty. Where everything about the finished modern product "is utterly awful and would be beneath the capabilities of a talented 12 year old," the technical skill exhibited here is immense. But most importantly, where you need to approach a modern work "as you would a Rorschach inkblot test," you can simply approach a Bouguereau with your own eyes, your own judgement and without books or texts or convoluted explanations.
Read Ross's whole piece here. Very, very good. Hat tip to Jeff Perren who says, "I invariably respond passionately to elegant pornography." (And click here for a very large version of the artwork.)
You have to be taught to love Picasso, because nobody would love him otherwise. But people don't need to be taught to love Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Bouguereau, or for that matter Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, or Tom Sawyer , The Grapes of Wrath , Alice in Wonderland , or The Christmas Carol .
Teaching and information can add to the depth of understanding of great works of art, but they are great initially by their ability to capture the soul and imagination of the viewer, without thousands of words to instruct us on how to deny the evidence of our own senses and to deny our innate sense of truth and reason.
Of course, what tends to happen to people who have allowed themselves to be convinced that the emperor is wearing beautiful clothes, is that they have become "ego invested" due to years of having parroted the same falsehoods... and the associated humiliation that goes with acknowledging that one has been had.
The more years, and the more said in support of Modernism, the greater the difficulty in breaking through the gestalts, and taking off the iconic blinders, shedding all the preconceptions and looking again with "innocent eyes" and describing what is really there (at least to yourself), and then comparing it to the maligned academics like Waterhouse, Bouguereau, Lord Leighton, Burne-Jones, Gérôme, and Alma-Tadema, and deciding with freedom of thought and an honest wish to find the truth, which of them indeed are works of art, and which are snake oil salesmen.