During his time at the Villa Medici he flourished, decorating a pavilion at the grand house of his cousin. He undertook commissions to pay off his debts and help his mother. He later met Paul Durand-Ruel how helped clients buy paintings from artists who exhibited at the Salons. This extended his fame to England by the 1860’s.
In 1856 he started living with one of his models, Nelly Monchablon. Nelly was 19 at the time. They kept their relationship secret due living out of wedlock. They had 3 children before they legally married. Eight days after they married their youngest child, Jeanne, died from tuberculosis. Nelly gave birth to a 4th child, Adolphe in 1868. In 1875 their 2nd born ,George, died. Nelly had a fifth child in 1876, Maurice but her health declined and she died in 1877 of tuberculosis. Baby Maurice died two months later.
From the 1860’s Bouguereau taught art at the Academie Julian for decades to thousands of students. He later married one of his students, Elizabeth Jane Gardner, who was considered to be he most famous pupil. He had planned to marry her earlier but his mother forbid it. They finally married 19 years after their relationship began.
Bouguereau completed 822 paintings during his lifetime. Going into the studio everyday brought him so much joy. Near the end of his life he described his love of his art: “Each day I go to my studio full of joy; in the evening when obliged to stop because of darkness I can scarcely wait for the next morning to come … if I cannot give myself to my dear painting I am miserable.”