The old masters and their pictures, for the use of schools and learners in art; (1905)

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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 in , the 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 Ego , Louvre, 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. 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. Ingres , versus 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. Another debate over Academic art style concerned basic working methods.

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.

Helene Schjerfbeck: A collection of 130 paintings (HD)

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. 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 drawing , first 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. 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 Moreau , in 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.


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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. 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.

The Color of Art: Free Artist Reference Books and eBooks

First held in , the Salon was the most prestigious art event in the world. As a result, its influence on French painting - in particular on artistic style, painterly conventions and the reputation of artists was enormous. Until the s the Paris Salon was enormously influential: A successful showing at the Salon gave an artist a huge commercial advantage. Even if an artist had graduated successfully from an Academy school and had 'shown' at the Salon, his future prospects were still largely dependent on his status with the academy.

Landscape painting

Artists who showed regularly at the Paris Salon, and whose paintings or sculptures were 'approved of', might be offered Associate and ultimately Full membership of the academy Academician status. Securing this coveted accolade was the goal of any ambitious painter or sculptor. Even Impressionist painters who had been rejected by the Salon - like Manet, Degas and Cezanne - still continued to submit works to the Salon jury in the hope of acceptance.

By the s, the French Academy and others had lost touch with artistic trends and continued stubbornly to promote a form of academic art, and a rigid teaching method, that was old-fashioned and out of touch with modern styles. They still ranked paintings according to the "Hierarchy of Genres" [see above], thus for example a history painting always 'outranked' a landscape, and would therefore be 'hung' in a better position in the Salon. Due to this inability to keep up to date, the Salon became more and more conservative, and ultimately went into a serious decline.

The first overt sign of trouble came in with the announcement by the French ruler Emperor Napoleon III that a special Salon des Refuses would be held, simultaneously with the official Salon, to showcase all works that had been rejected by the Salon jury. The alternative Salon proved as popular as the official one.

Even so, it is worth remembering that French Impressionism - still the world's most popular style of painting - was rejected by the official Salon, forcing its adherents to exhibit privately. See Impressionist Exhibitions in Paris In fairness, one should note that not every painting hung in the French Academy's annual Salon was old-fashioned in style or backward-looking in content.


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  • Some progressive paintings did get past the jury. In the period to , these new Salons helped to introduce revolutionary new styles of painting to the public, including Neo-Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism, to name but three. Only then did the public get to see abstract paintings and abstract sculpture. Academic Art in the Late 19th Century. By the s, there were two systems of art operating in France, in parallel: The official system catered for conservative circles - for instance, both sculpture and architecture were run by strong believers in academic art - but had no real influence elsewhere, not least because it failed to encourage innovation.

    It was criticised by Realist artists like Gustave Courbet for its promotion of idealism, instead of paying more attention to contemporary social concerns. It was criticized by Impressionist painters for its cosmetic manicured finish, whereby artists were obliged to alter the painting to conform to academic stylistic standards, by idealizing the images and adding perfect detail. And practitioners of both Realism and Impressionism strongly objected to the low ranking accorded to landscapes, genre paintings and still lifes in the academic hierarchy of the genres.

    Meanwhile the alternative system was flourishing. All serious art collectors , dealers and art critics in Paris paid far more attention to new developments in the Salon des Independants than they did to the same old repetitive style of academic painting in the official Salon. Private schools prospered, including the Academie Julian started , Charles Gleyre's School started , Academie Colarossi started and the Lhote Academy started In London, the leading unofficial academy was the Slade School of Fine Art opened , which competed with the hopelessly arid teaching methods of the official Royal Academy.

    Rivera's Early Years: 1886-1915

    There were other schools that taught art design , such as the famous German Bauhaus design school Meanwhile Secession - see, for instance, the Munich Secession , the Vienna Secession and the Berlin Secession movement - was sweeping across Europe, setting up progressive alternative organizations to the old-style academies. In short, by the turn of the century, everything that was new, innovative and exciting was happening 'outside' the official system.

    European Academies of Fine Art: His parents encouraged Diego's artistic talent, enrolling him in the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts when he was approximately 12 years old.


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    There, he studied traditional painting and sculpting techniques under the tutelage of a largely conservative faculty. Gerado Murillo was among his fellow students at the academy, an artist who would become a driving force behind the Mexican Mural Movement in the early 20th century, in which Rivera took part. In , the two students joined a group of other up-and-coming artists in an exhibition organized by the editors of Savia Moderna magazine. Rivera completed his studies in , and the following year, he exhibited more than two dozen paintings at the annual San Carlos Academy art show.

    One of his works from this time, "La Era," or "The Threshing," displays elements of Impressionism in the play of light and shadow and the artist's distinctive use of color. In , Rivera received a government sponsorship to study in Europe. At Madrid's Prada Museum, he familiarized himself with the paintings of such Spanish masters as El Greco , Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez , all of whom would influence his artistic development.

    From Madrid, he moved to Paris where he lived off and on for several years among other artists in the Montparnasse community, including Amedeo Modigliani and his wife, artist Jeanne Hebuterne. Rivera showed six paintings in the exhibit sponsored by The Society of Independent Artists in Paris, including the realistic portrait, "Head of a Breton Woman. However, when Rivera returned to Paris after a brief visit to Mexico, his style underwent a significant shift toward Cubism, which was enjoying its heyday in Europe during the second decade of the 20th century.

    The Cubists sought to portray multiple dimensions of a single subject through the use of geometric forms or intersecting planes. Under the influence of Pablo Picasso and the recently deceased Paul Cezanne , Rivera's paintings became progressively more abstract. View of Toledo from contains both recognizable buildings and Cubist elements in the landscape while "Portrait of Oscar Miestchaninoff" from the following year clearly illustrates the Cubist influence on Rivera's style. By , the artists had fully embraced Cubism in his art, as evidenced by such works as "Woman at a Well" and Sailor at Breakfast.

    He submitted works to the Salon d'Automne exhibit where the likes of Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and Andre Lhote had shown their work over the previous years, attracting both negative reactions and the positive attention of the art community. Angelina and the Child from is among Rivera's last purely Cubist paintings. His artistic development headed in a fresh direction as the artist focused on recent political events such as the Mexican Revolution and the Russian Revolution of , bringing his ideological views to the forefront.

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    His paintings began to portray the working class combined with elements of his Mexican heritage. A trip through Italy in had piqued the artist's interest in Renaissance frescoes, and when he returned to Mexico the following year, he became involved in mural painting. Rivera joined a group of artists, including muralist Jose Clemente Orozco and Mexican realist David Alfaro Siqueiros, in a government-sponsored mural program.

    Rivera's first foray into the genre, Creation , which he painted on a wall in the National Preparatory School auditorium in Mexico City, depicts a heavenly host with Renaissance haloes. The artist also joined the Mexican Communist Society during that first year of his repatriation. He began a series of frescoes later in that focused on Mexican society and the country's revolutionary past, entitled "Ballad of the Proletarian Revolution," that he would not complete until The finished work, consisting of over frescoes covering more than 5, square feet, is installed in Mexico City's Secretariat of Public Education building.

    By now the artist was well into his 30s, and the Diego Rivera painting style had come into its own, featuring large figures with simplified lines and rich colors. Many of his scenes tell the stories of workers such as miners, farmers, industrial laborers and peasants. His paintings of flower sellers with calla lilies are among his best known.

    The artist took part in a delegation to the Soviet Union in to celebrate the year anniversary of the October Revolution. While in Moscow, Rivera met Alfred H. He also began work on a commissioned series of murals for the Palace of Cortez in Cuernavaca.