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The Academy of Art

Started: 1400s
Ended: Current
The Academy of Art Timeline
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.

Summary of The Academy of Art

In the late-19th and early-20th 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.

Overview of The Academy of Art

A 19th-century photograph of the French École des Beaux-Arts.  What must have been a typical scene at an academy where a life drawing class is in progress.

Very much in the spirit of the establishment, the British John Constable said: "An artist who is self-taught is taught by a very ignorant person indeed." Many followed that kind of logic, but the few who didn't, the avant-garde of the next centuries, established their own path, and are remembered for it.

Do Not Miss

  • 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.
  • Looking back to the arts of Greece and Rome for ideal models and forms, Neoclassicism was a major art period that set standard and redefined painting, sculpture, and architecture.
  • The Rococo was a far reaching artistic movement associated with ornate decoration that included architecture, painting, sculpture, music, interior design, landscape design, and theater.
  • Europe experienced a harsh interwar period after the chaos and aftermath of World War I, and with the onset of the Great Depression. Meanwhile artists focused on the so-called "return to order" (rappel a l'ordre), a renewal of depictions of Greek and Roman topics and imagery.

The Important Artists and Works of The Academy of Art

The School of Athens (1509-10)

Artist: 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 (1771-72)

Artist: 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 (1785)

Artist: 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.

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Content compiled and written by Morgan Falconer

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"The Academy of Art Definition Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Morgan Falconer
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 01 Sep 2012. Updated and modified regularly
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