The Academy of Art
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
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.
The Important Artists and Works of The Academy of Art
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.
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).
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.
Useful Resources on The Academy of Art
- The King's Artists: The Royal Academy of Arts and the Politics of British Culture 1760-1840By Holger Hoock
- Art and the Academy in the Nineteenth CenturyBy Rafael Cardoso Denis
- Academies, Museums and Canons of ArtOur PickBy Gill Perry, Colin Cunningham
- The Academy and French Painting in the 19th CenturyBy Albert Boime
- Raphael: School of AthensBy Marco Dolcetta, Frederico Zeri
- Johann Zoffany, Royal Academy, Seven Magazine ReviewBy Judith Flanders / The Telegraph / March 16, 2012
- Sizing Up Jacques-Louis David, in a Compact WayBy Roberta Smith / The New York Times / June 10, 2005
- Italy as Neoclassicist InspirationBy Roderick Conway Morris / The New York Times / March 23, 2012
- Dahesh MuseumCollects Art Purely by European-Trained Artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries
- The Frick Collection: Gabriel de Saint-Aubin
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Salon and the Royal AcademyOur Pick
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The French Academy in Rome
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Neo-Classicism