Apparently Gauguin once outright stated Bouguereau's work belongs in a brothel--And to an extent I have a feeling Gauguin was projecting hangups regarding his own personal impropriety. To be fair, however, there is an element of baseness upon Bouguereau's canvas merely masquerading as highbrow symbolism--Consider the whole "broken pitcher symbolizing lost innocence" thing from Bouguereau's Wikipedia article.
From the radical foundation set by late 19th century avant-gardists springs Picasso. Yet what I want to get to is one of Picasso's favorites among his contemporaries: Balthus. Undoubtedly a skilled technician, Balthus continuously shocked with how blatantly he sexualized children upon his canvas, a facet of his controversial still today.
With this new piece in the puzzle--that of the salon academics--I'm getting the sense that Balthus is yanking this (forgive me) Bouguereauian hint of baseness out from under the slick veneer of esteemed culture; blazoning it for all to behold.
Pretty insane stuff.