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Academic Classicism


"The only was for us to become great and possibly inimitable is to imitate the ancients." -- Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the great German scholar and art historian, from his treatise, Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works , published  1755

Description of the Academic Classicism Painting style

 Academic Classicism is the painting style established by  European art academies and universities.  In general It is also called "academic art". In this context as new styles are embraced by academics, the new styles come to be considered academic, thus what was at one time a rebellion against academic art becomes academic art. The academic art world also worshiped Raphael, for the splendor of his work. This style is often termed  "art pompier", "academism", "academicism", "classical revival", "beaux-arts classicism"  and "eclecticism".

The followers of Classicism appreciated and imitated Greek and Roman literature, art, and architecture. Classicism is a late form of Neoclassicism, with a distinctly original elegance. Often linked with  "historicism" and "syncretism".

Followers of this movement were influenced by the high standards of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts, which practiced under the movements of Neoclassicism and RomanticismAcademic Classicism attempted to merge both techniques to create the perfect style. It is characterized by adhering to a strict manner of painting, following narrow compositional rules and delicacy of color. The atmospheric effects are sumptuously luminescent. According to art historian, Walter Pater "To produce such effects at all requires all the resources of painting, with its power of indirect expression, of subordinate but significant detail, its atmosphere, its foregrounds and backgrounds."

Subject matter often used in Rococo art such as light hearted frivolity of the upper classes was fashionable once again. This style favored interpretations of Greek, Roman and Renaissance themes.  Imagery often centered around Biblical stories, Arthurian legends and mythology According to Solomon Gessner, the great German painter and art historian, "By studying the works of Greek sculptors the painter can attain the sublimest conceptions of beauty, and learn what must be added to nature in order to give to the imitation dignity and propriety. 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: German poet, playwright, novelist, and philosopher argued that Greek art was an absolutely exemplary model from which a fixed canon determinative for the artists of all times could be derived; and that the composition of pictures should correspond strictly with the style of antiquity.

 Masters of Academic Classicism, William Bouguereau, Paul Delaroche  and Jean-Leon Gerome, had an extraordinary way of capturing nature's tempestuous, "feral" qualities and yet, at the same time, create in the viewer an almost inspirational feeling of harmony and serenity.  High drama, blithe sophistication, and unrequited passion characterize this magnificent painting style.

Example of a Academic Classicism painting by Adolphe William  Bouguereau

Important Painters of Academic Classicism Movement

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, 1817-1900

Adolphe-William  Bouguereau1825-1905

Charles Emile August  Carolus-Duran, 1837-1917

Leon Francois Comerre,  1850-1916

Pierre-Auguste  Cot 1837-1883

Thomas Couture, 1815-1879

Paul Delaroche 1797-1856

Eugene Fromentin,  1820-1876

Jean Leon Gerome,  1824-1904

 Jean-Paul Laurens1838-1921

 Adolphe Alexandre Lesrel,  1839-1929

Luc Olivier Merson,  1846-1920

Hans Makart,  1840 - 1884

Giulio Rosati,  1858-1917

 Franz Xavier  Winterhalter, 1805-1873

William Clarke Wontner, 1857-1930

Fritz  Zuber-Buhler, 1822-1896


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