Léon-Jean-Bazille Perrault was a mid-nineteenth century artist who preoccupied himself with the treatment of subjects that reinforced the affluent bourgeoisie in their desire to have beautiful paintings adorning their homes. Inspired by his teachers, François-Édouard Picot and William-Adolphe Bouguereau, master painters of the academic style of the nineteenth-century, Perrault continued emphasizing mythology and idealization found in their compositions, in his own paintings. In following these two painters, Perrault was also showing his reverence for eighteenth century painters such as Jean-Antoine Watteau and Francois Boucher who also idealized their subjects.
Léon-Bazille Perrault was born June 20th, 1832 in Poitiers, a town southwest of Paris.
His earliest training was under François-Édouard Picot, but later studied under his friend William Adolphe Bouguereau . While many highlight the fact that Perrault was a student of Bouguereau, this may have been more so on a basis of their amicable relationship as in the majority of his Salon entries, Perrault lists Picot as his master. Perrault may have worked alongside Bouguereau and been inspired by him, but Picot was his formal teacher.
Perrault’s public career began during the period of the Second Empire, a time heavily influenced by the trauma of the 1848 social and political uprising which saw the July Monarchy and the despotic leader Louis-Philippe driven from power. In consequence, the bourgeois public sought freedom in paintings that displayed a frivolous sense of beauty, offering them some respite from the tumultuous past.
Perrault paintings satisfied this public craving for delicate compositions, and they often focused on mythological scenes, but also children, nudes, some genre scene paintings, and even military scene paintings. But Perrault found fame with those paintings that showed a delicate and idealized version of life, exactly those paintings which found a large audience. In appealing to the bourgeoisie, Perrault was providing subject matter that was also very popular with Salon jurors.