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academicism | Definition of academicism in English by Oxford Dictionaries

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Nothing is less real than realism. – Academic art, or Academicism, is a style of painting and sculpture produced under the influence of European academies of. Page 1 . You have rescued me from academicism: I could so easily have been lost!" . publishing anything of the autobiography, since the date of book. It remains to be seen whether Academicism can deliver 'substance' Its website declares: .. (Basement of Palais d'Industrie), date unknown; drawing probably.

Hence, Keats' famous musing "Beauty is truth, truth beauty". Bouguereau is known to have said that he wouldn't paint "a war", but would paint "War". Many paintings by academic artists are simple nature allegories with titles like Dawn, Dusk, Seeing, and Tasting, where these ideas are personified by a single nude figure, composed in such a way as to bring out the essence of the idea. The trend in art was also towards greater idealismwhich is contrary to realismin that the figures depicted were made simpler and more abstract—idealized—in order to be able to represent the ideals they stood in for.

This would involve both generalizing forms seen in nature, and subordinating them to the unity and theme of the artwork. Because history and mythology were considered as plays or dialectics of ideas, a fertile ground for important allegory, using themes from these subjects was considered the most serious form of painting. A hierarchy of genresoriginally created in the 17th century, was valued, where history painting —classical, religious, mythological, literary, and allegorical subjects—was placed at the top, next genre paintingthen portraiturestill-lifeand landscape.

History painting was also known as the "grande genre". Paintings of Hans Makart are often larger than life historical dramas, and he combined this with a historicism in decoration to dominate the style of 19th century Vienna culture.

Paul Delaroche is a typifying example of French history painting. All of these trends were influenced by the theories of the philosopher Hegelwho held that history was a dialectic of competing ideas, which eventually resolved in synthesis.

Towards the end of the 19th century, academic art had saturated European society. Exhibitions were held often, and the most popular exhibition was the Paris Salon and beginning inthe Salon d'Automne.

These salons were sensational events that attracted crowds of visitors, both native and foreign. As much a social affair as an artistic one, 50, people might visit on a single Sunday, and as many ascould see the exhibition during its two-month run. Thousands of pictures were displayed, hung from just below eye level all the way up to the ceiling in a manner now known as "Salon style". A successful showing at the salon was a seal of approval for an artist, making his work saleable to the growing ranks of private collectors.

During the reign of academic art, the paintings of the Rococo era, previously held in low favor, were revived to popularity, and themes often used in Rococo art such as Eros and Psyche were popular again. The academic art world also idolized Raphaelfor the ideality of his work, in fact preferring him over Michelangelo.

Academic art not only held influence in Europe and the United States, but also extended its influence to other Western countries. This was especially true for Latin American nations, which, because their revolutions were modeled on the French Revolutionsought to emulate French culture. Young artists spent four years in rigorous training. First, students copied prints after classical sculptures, becoming familiar with the principles of contour, light, and shade.

The copy was believed crucial to the academic education; from copying works of past artists one would assimilate their methods of art making. To advance to the next step, and every successive one, students presented drawings for evaluation. Demosthenes at the Seashore, a Royal Academy prize winning drawing, If approved, they would then draw from plaster casts of famous classical sculptures. Only after acquiring these skills were artists permitted entrance to classes in which a live model posed.

To learn to paint with a brush, the student first had to demonstrate proficiency in drawing, which was considered the foundation of academic painting. Only then could the pupil join the studio of an academician and learn how to paint. Throughout the entire process, competitions with a predetermined subject and a specific allotted period of time measured each students' progress.

Academic art

The most famous art competition for students was the Prix de Rome. To compete, an artist had to be of French nationality, male, under 30 years of age, and single. The competition was grueling, involving several stages before the final one, in which 10 competitors were sequestered in studios for 72 days to paint their final history paintings.

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The winner was essentially assured a successful professional career. As noted, a successful showing at the Salon was a seal of approval for an artist. Artists petitioned the hanging committee for optimal placement "on the line," or at eye level.

After the exhibition opened, artists complained if their works were "skyed," or hung too high. Criticism and legacy[ edit ] Caricature French bourgeoisie: Another criticism by Realists was the " false surface " of paintings—the objects depicted looked smooth, slick, and idealized—showing no real texture.

This principle was the basis for the official " Hierarchy of the Genres ", a ranking system first announced inby the Secretary to the French Academy. The genres were listed in the following order of importance: The idea was that history paintings were better platforms from which to communicate a highminded message. A battle scene or a piece of Biblical art would convey an obvious moral message about say courage or spirituality, whereas a still-life picture of a vase of flowers would struggle to do the same.

Academic Art: Characteristics, History: Fine Arts Academies

In practice, artists succeeded in injecting moral content into all types of pictures, including still lifes. See, for instance, the genre of vanitas paintingmastered by Harmen van Steenwyck and others, which typically depicted an array of symbolic objects, all of which conveyed a series of moral messages based on the futility of life without Christian values. As well as Christian principles or humanistic qualities, academic artists were encouraged to communicate some eternal truth or ideal to the viewer.

Hence some academic paintings are no more than simple allegories with names like "Dawn", "Evening", "Friendship" and so on, in which the essence of these ideals are embodied by a single figure.

Other Artistic Conventions Over time the Academic authorities gradually built up a series of painterly rules and conventions. Here is a small selection: Ironically, Ingres, the doyen of the Academy, was criticized for the abnormal length of the model's back in La Grand OdalisqueLouvre. For example, Benjamin West caused a scandal with The Death of General WolfeNational Gallery of Art, Ottowawhich was the first major history painting to feature contemporary costume.

Likewise in the way light was handled, and in matters of chiaroscuro. The debate about the significance of colour rumbled on in the Academy for more than two centuries: This alone disqualified Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists from academic approval. Impasto was out, expressive brushwork was out: History and Development of Academic Art The above characteristics of academic art didn't appear overnight.

Rather they emerged over time, as the result of several ongoing debates between differing viewpoints, typically embodied by certain artists who then became "models" to be copied.


There were several debates, such as: The Italian Renaissance embraced two important factions: The difference between these two factions can be summarized as follows: In Florence, colour was regarded as an attribute of the object to which it belonged: In Venice, colour was understood to be a quality without which the hat or the tree could hardly be said to exist, thus a painter's ability to mix colour pigments was all-important. Not long after the French Academy was reorganized inthe Renaissance debate was revived by two rival factions.

The issue concerned which style of art was superior - that of the French artist Nicolas Poussin or that of the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens Poussin specialized in medium-format mythological painting and classical, pastoral landscapes - see, for instance, Et in Arcadia EgoLouvre, Paris - and valued clarity and rationality above everything. To many, this highminded rational approach made him the perfect embodiment of the ideals of the Academy.

Rubens, on the other hand, painted all the great religious and historical scenes with enormous verve and style, and with a wonderful eye for sumptuous colour. In simple terms, the question was: At a higher level, the issue was about what lay at the heart of art: The issue was never conclusively resolved - not least because both were such exceptional artists - and it resurfaced a century and a half later Ingres or Delacroix?

In the 19th century, the argument was revived but this time with new champions. Now it was the neoclassical, cool, polished paintings of the political artist Jacques-Louis David - see: Death of Marat and Oath of the Horatii - and his follower J. Ingresversus the colourful, dramatic, Romanticism of Eugene Delacroix Ingres was the ultimate Academician, whose muted portraits, female nudes and history paintings were exquisitely arranged and polished according to classical convention.

In contrast, Delacroix was the fiery hero of French Romanticism whose large-scale vigorous, sometimes violent canvases albeit carefully prepared and sketched represented a much more uninhibited interpretation of classical theory. In comparision, one painter who straddled both sides of this stylistic divide was the Napoleonic history painter Antoine-Jean Gros: The debate eventually went in favour of Ingres, who was appointed director of the French Academy in Rome However, the aim of the French art world soon became to synthesize the line of Classicism with the colour of Romanticism.

The academician William-Adolphe Bouguereau, for instance, believed that the trick to being a good artist is recognizing the fundamental interdependence of line and colour, a view echoed by the academician Thomas Couture who said that whenever someone described a painting as having better colour or better line, it was really nonsense, because colour depended on line to convey it, and vice versa.

Copy Old Masters or Copy Nature? Another debate over Academic art style concerned basic working methods.

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Was it better for an artist to learn art by looking at nature, or by scrutinizing the paintings of Old Masters? Put another way, which was superior - the intellectual ability to interpret and organize what one sees, or the ability to reproduce what one sees?

In a way, this academic debate anticipated the argument among Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as to the merits of meticulous studio-painting versus spontaneous plein-air painting.

None of these issues had a precise answer and, in general, the argument dwelt on which artist or what type of painting best synthesized the competing features. The principal weakness of the Academy as an institution, lay in its assumption that there was a 'correct' approach to art, and more importantly that they were the right body to find it.

Meanwhile, European painters and sculptors moved on in their ceaseless quest for new art styles, new colour-schemes, new forms of composition, and new types of brushstrokes, without paying too much heed to the doctrinal arguments which raged inside the academies.

How the Academies Controlled Art Education and Exhibitions The French Academy had a virtual monopoly on the teaching, production and exhibition of visual art in France - most other academies were in the same position. As a result, without the approval of the Academy a budding painter could neither obtain an official "qualification", nor exhibit his works to the public, nor gain access to official patronage or teaching positions.

In short, the Academy held the key to an artist's future prosperity. How Academic Art Was Taught Academy schools taught art according to a strict set of conventions and rules, and involved only representational art: Until classes inside the academy were based entirely on the practice of figure drawing - that is, drawing the works of Old Masters.

Copying such masterpieces was considered to be the only means of absorbing the correct principles of contour, light, and shade. The style taught by academy teachers was known as academic art. Students began with drawingfirst from prints or drawings of classical Greek sculpture or the paintings of Old Masters such as Michelangelo and Raphael of the High Renaissance era. Having completed this stage, students then had to present drawings for evaluation.

If successful, they then moved on to drawing from plaster casts or originals of antique statuary. Once again, they then had to present drawings for evaluation.

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If successful, they were allowed to copy from live male nudes known as 'drawing from life'. Only after completing several years training in drawing, as well as anatomy and geometry, were students allowed to paint: Indeed, painting was not even on the curriculum of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts the French Academy's school until Among the best of the academician studios was the studio of Gustave Moreauin Paris.

This dogmatic teaching method was reinforced by strict entry qualifications and course assessments. For example, entry to the Parisian Ecole des Beaux-Arts was only possible for students who passed an exam and possessed a letter of reference from a noted Professor of art. If accepted, the student began the fine arts course, advancing in stages as we have seen only after presenting a portfolio of drawings for approval. In addition, regular art competitions were held under timed conditions, to record each students' ability.

At the same time, the academies maintained the strict ranking system of the painting genres. History Painting was the highest form, followed by portraiture, genre paintings, landscapes and finally still life. Thus, the highest prizes were therefore awarded to history painters - a practice which caused much discontent among student artists.

Salon Exhibitions Typically, each academy of art staged a number of exhibitions salons during the year, which attracted great interest from art buyers and collectors. In order for a painting to be accepted by the Salon, it first had to be approved by the Salon "jury" - a committee of academicians who vetted each submission.

A successful showing at one of these displays was a guaranteed seal of approval for an aspiring artist. Since several thousand paintings would usually be on display, hung from eye-level to the ceiling, there was tremendous competition to secure prime position from the Hanging Committee, who as usual were influenced by the genre of a painting and no doubt by the 'academic conformity' of its artist.

The French Academy, for instance, had its own official art exhibition, known as the Paris Salon. First held inthe Salon was the most prestigious art event in the world.