The current show at the Milwaukee Art Museum is a very comprehensive display of the work of William Bouguereau. He is the last, and best, of the great French salon painters. His work is disparaged by many contemporary art critics as being too sentimental, a vehicle for the super rich to feel better about their wealth and too old fashioned and there are plenty of other things art snobs like to complain about.
At the time the impressionists were just starting to get attention. The salon had been the way to gain acceptance by collectors. If you got into the yearly salon show you could count on sales and approval. They were the gate keepers and the impressionists were not accepted, for the most part. Bouguereau and his approach to painting was accepted and so he is seen as part of the establishment, which he was.
What I think is that he may have been part of all that but to dismiss his work is to be close minded and ignorant of Bouguereau‘s great gifts.