GODS AND HEROES: MASTERPIECES FROM THE ÉCOLE DES BEAUX-ARTS, PARIS

Catalogue of the Exhibition


Victoria here. The Baker Museum in Naples, FL, is currently hosting the exhibition Gods and Heroes, through May 17, 2015. Organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) and the École des Beaux -Arts, Paris. it has been shown previously in Oklahoma City and Albuquerque and will travel to Portland, OR, June 13-September 13, 2015.


École des Beaux -Arts, Paris.


According to the AFA, "This rich overview of masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts—the original school of fine arts in Paris and a repository for work by Europe’s most renowned artists since the fifteenth century—includes approximately 140 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper dating from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. The focus is on epic themes such as courage, sacrifice, and death, as well as the ways that changing political and philosophical systems affected the choice and execution of these subjects."



Pierre-Charles Jombert Apollo and Diana Killing the children of Niobe 1772



Describing the exhibition, the AFA writes:  "The epic deeds of gods and heroes, enshrined in the Bible and the works of Homer, were the primary narratives from which both aspiring and established academicians drew their inspiration.  Their ideology was rooted in the study of the idealized human form as envisioned in classical art. At the École, learning how to construct persuasive and powerful paintings from carefully delineated anatomy, expressive faces, and convincing architectural and landscape settings was understood by aspiring artists to be the route to success and recognition."



Jacques-Louis David, Andromache Mourning Hector, 1783



Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jeroboam Sacrificing to the Idols, 1752

You will encounter paintings by David, Fragonard, Ingres and Bouguereau, among many others. Also many prints and drawings used for teaching are included by artists such as da Vinci, Titian, Durer, and Rembrandt.


Pierre Monier The Conquest of the Golden Fleece 1663

The painting above, based on the Greek stories of Jason, was the first winner of the Grand Prix fro the Ecole in 1663, a reminder of how long the school has been in operation.


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Achilles Receiving the Ambassadors of Agamemnon, 1801



William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Disdain, 1850. 

Some of the paintings on view were executed for annual competitions on themes chosen by the school, such as expression (see above) or the male torso (see below.)  These competitions were watched closely for new approaches and growing expertise.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Painted Half Torso 1800

Wandering among these paintings, illustrations of teaching techniques and as 'simple' as the two above and elaborate tableaux of assorted gods or heroes on crowded canvases, I could not help thinking of what college professors taught at the time I took art history courses. Speaking of the late 19th century, they told us that the academicians were stuck in the rubble of the past and ignored the new currents being developed by the Impressionists (then a title of derisiion) -- while those staid old-fashioned paintings of the academicians admitted to the official salon were admired, Monet, Renoir and their like were being ignored and had to organize their Salon des Rufusés to show their work.  Thus I never really developed an appreciation for the academicians.  This show went quite a ways towaards remeding that situation. I found I could enjoy these works for their own sake -- though if I were to chose one to hang on my own walls, I might have had a tough time. 

Julie Duvidal Montferrier  Self Portrait 1818


Full name, Louise Rose Julie Duvidal Monferrier (1797-1865)  exhibited works at the Salon. She married Abel Hugo, the brother of Victor Hugo.  I admire the direct gaze in this self-portrait, and it reminds me of the work of the artist below, who also did many self-portraits, though none of them are in this exhibition.


Louise Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun: Portrait of Hubert Robert, 1788

Robert was a painter who specialized in idealized landscapes for persons such as Madame du Barry. This portrait, said to be among her finest, shows Vigee Lebrun's close rapport and respect for him. 

If you have the opportunity to visit this exhibition in Naples or Portland, I hope you will enjoy it as I did.  Always time for something old -- becoming something new!