The Academy of Art in Modern Art Movement and Chronology

"The sculptor, and the painter also, should be trained in these liberal arts: grammar, geometry, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, perspective, history, anatomy, theory of design, arithmetic."

Lorenzo Ghiberti

BACKGROUND

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, academies - and their "academic" style - became focuses of dissent among many modern artists seeking to develop new styles. Yet, for centuries, the idea of the academy - a place where artists could obtain instruction and exhibit their work - commanded respect. Before their growth, the medieval guild had supplied a trade association for artists who regarded themselves principally as craftsmen. During the Renaissance, however, the status of the artist was raised to that of an individual who was gifted both technically and intellectually. Artists began to see themselves as the peers of philosophers and poets (Raphael included himself in his famous gathering The School of Athens (1509-10)), and academies came into being to provide the new kind of multifaceted education that was required.

TRAINING

The training received in the traditional academy concentrated on drawing from antique statuary and live models. The image of artists "drawing from life," or discoursing in front of a live model, became a classic academy scene, such as in Johann Zoffany's The Academicians of the Royal Academy (1771-72). Artists also learned subjects such as history, since history painting - which borrowed subjects from literature, mythology, the Bible, and history itself - was widely regarded as the most demanding genre. Although the academies also produced skilled portraitists and still life painters, such genres were held in lower regard.

THE FRENCH ACADEMY

The most influential European academy was the Académie Royale de Peintre et de Sculpture, which was founded in Paris in 1648. Soon after its establishment it became devoted to the glorification of Louis XIV, and the connection between centralized academies and the state remained important as they spread across Europe in the eighteenth century. Academies were vital in fostering national schools of painting and sculpture and remained pinnacles of aspiration for most artists long into the nineteenth century.

THE ACADEMY EXHIBITION

An important function of the academy was to provide artists with a regular exhibition venue. Since the authority of the academies lent considerable authority to these juried shows, they often became the most important event in the exhibition calendar. This in turn lent further weight to the academies as arbiters of popular taste. The most famous example of this is the biannual exhibition of the French academy, the Salon, so called because it was initially held in the Salon Carre of the Palace of the Louvre. The Salon was the most important regular exhibition in Europe throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The story of its decline is intertwined with that of the rise of modern art.

THE ACADEMY VS. MODERN ART

In the wake of Romanticism, many artists began to question centralized authority, including that represented by the academy. And by the late nineteenth century, many artists were rejecting authority entirely; indeed, it is arguable that in its early stages modern art came to define itself by an opposition to "academic" art - "academic" becoming a term of abuse for all that was old and moribund. Today, with the state having withdrawn from large-scale patronage and official exhibition venues having lost ground to a variety of public museums and commercial galleries, art schools have also moved on. Most have all but abolished life drawing classes, and many are skeptical of the value of any formal and prescribed training whatsoever.



QUOTES

"Art takes nature as its model."
- Aristotle

"The sculptor, and the painter also, should be trained in these liberal arts: grammar, geometry, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, perspective, history, anatomy, theory of design, arithmetic."
- Lorenzo Ghiberti

"The idea of beauty does not descend into matter unless this is prepared as carefully as possible. This preparation consists of three things: arrangement, measure, and aspect or form."
- Nicolas Poussin

"One always begins by imitating."
- Eugene Delacroix

"An artist who is self-taught is taught by a very ignorant person indeed."
- John Constable



Original content written by Morgan Falconer
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Raphael
Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. He is celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Modern Art Information Raphael
Currently, no information is available for this item. Please visit this page in the future as we are expanding quickly.
The French Salon
The French Salon
The Salon was a biannual Paris exhibition that, in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, became the most important regular exhibition in Europe. Initially restricted to members of the French Academy, it was later opened up; however, it remained strongly associated with the Academy's conservatism, and this eventually encouraged artists to exhibit outside of its confines.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information The French Salon
Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was a nineteenth-century movement that celebrated the powers of emotion and intuition over rational analysis or classical ideals. Romantic artists emphasized awe, beauty, and the sublime in their works, which frequently charted the darker or chaotic sides of human life.

Modern Art Information Romanticism
The School of Athens
The School of Athens

Title: The School of Athens (1509-10)

Artist: Raphael

Artwork Description & Analysis: The idea of an academy has its roots in the school Plato established to teach philosophy in Athens in the fourth century BC. When Raphael painted four stanzas representing various branches of knowledge for the Vatican, he devoted one to philosophy and represented many ancient Greek thinkers. But he included a self-portrait on the right of the picture, as an assertion of Renaissance artists' claim to be deserving of a new and higher education than that which was once provided by the guild system.


The Academicians of the Royal Academy
The Academicians of the Royal Academy

Title: The Academicians of the Royal Academy (1771-72)

Artist: Johann Zoffany

Artwork Description & Analysis: Zoffany's group portrait shows a scene from the life drawing room at Old Somerset House, the old home of London's Royal Academy. Rather than emphasize the technical ability of drawing, he shows the academicians discussing the nude, underlining instead their intellectual credentials. Some have seen the picture as a mock-heroic version of Raphael's School of Athens (1509-10).


The Oath of the Horatii
The Oath of the Horatii

Title: The Oath of the Horatii (1785)

Artist: Jacques-Louis David

Artwork Description & Analysis: David's subject comes from the Roman tale of the three sons of Horatius who were selected to represent their city against the Curiatii, champions from a neighboring city. The oath was lent drama by the fact that the two families were related by marriage. Many have read it as an outstanding example of the teaching of the French Academy - its clarity, respected classical source, and stern moral message making it the perfect model. It was one of several pictures that propelled David to the front ranks of French painting and into official positions within the state.


The Salon du Louvre in 1765
The Salon du Louvre in 1765

Title: The Salon du Louvre in 1765 (1765)

Artist: Gabriel de Saint-Aubin

Artwork Description & Analysis: Gabriel de Saint-Aubin never won the great Academy prize that would have launched his career, so he spent his years as a street draughtsman. He sometimes earned money by recording the pictures that were hung in the Academy's great biannual exhibition, the Salon. This spirited drawing lends an impression not only of the crowded competition that the Academy encouraged among its members, but also of the hierarchy that governed such exhibitions - and that governed success at the Academy - with large history paintings gaining the greatest profile and minor genres, such as still lifes, being relegated to less favorable spots.


The School of Athens

The School of Athens, 1509-10, Raphael,

The idea of an academy has its roots in the school Plato established to teach philosophy in Athens in the fourth century BC. When Raphael painted four stanzas representing various branches of knowledge for the Vatican, he devoted one to philosophy and represented many ancient Greek thinkers. But he included a self-portrait on the right of the picture, as an assertion of Renaissance artists' claim to be deserving of a new and higher education than that which was once provided by the guild system.
The Academicians of the Royal Academy

The Academicians of the Royal Academy, 1771-72, Johann Zoffany,

Zoffany's group portrait shows a scene from the life drawing room at Old Somerset House, the old home of London's Royal Academy. Rather than emphasize the technical ability of drawing, he shows the academicians discussing the nude, underlining instead their intellectual credentials. Some have seen the picture as a mock-heroic version of Raphael's School of Athens (1509-10).
The Oath of the Horatii

The Oath of the Horatii, 1785, Jacques-Louis David,

David's subject comes from the Roman tale of the three sons of Horatius who were selected to represent their city against the Curiatii, champions from a neighboring city. The oath was lent drama by the fact that the two families were related by marriage. Many have read it as an outstanding example of the teaching of the French Academy - its clarity, respected classical source, and stern moral message making it the perfect model. It was one of several pictures that propelled David to the front ranks of French painting and into official positions within the state.
The Salon du Louvre in 1765

The Salon du Louvre in 1765, 1765, Gabriel de Saint-Aubin,

Gabriel de Saint-Aubin never won the great Academy prize that would have launched his career, so he spent his years as a street draughtsman. He sometimes earned money by recording the pictures that were hung in the Academy's great biannual exhibition, the Salon. This spirited drawing lends an impression not only of the crowded competition that the Academy encouraged among its members, but also of the hierarchy that governed such exhibitions - and that governed success at the Academy - with large history paintings gaining the greatest profile and minor genres, such as still lifes, being relegated to less favorable spots.
Bibliography
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggests some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.