Academic art : what is it ?

Margaux Jouault
Publié le 30 November 2022
Academic art : what is it ?

Exactly 197 years ago, William Bouguereau, French painter and major figure of academic art, was born.

Academic art, also known as fireman art, is an artistic movement of the mid-19th century. It is expressed in a strong interest in historical themes and orientalism.

Indeed, academic art is characterised by precise and determined guidelines from the nineteenth century. The first was the hierarchy of genres. Artists had to be able to distinguish the nobility of each artistic genre with precision. The most prestigious artworks were those dealing with religion, history and mythology. Scenes from everyday life, portraits and landscapes are the least noble genres. As you can imagine, the more important the subject, the larger the painting must be to represent it.

art académique
Ernest Meissonier, 1814, Campagne de France (1864), Paris, musée d'Orsay.

Secondly, academic art asserts the superior importance of drawing over colour. Indeed, the artist is, above all, a creator of lines that do not exist in nature. If there are no precise lines and depth, the work cannot exist. Thus, for the academic movement, drawing will always take precedence over colour.

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