The French AcademyToday, no one city or country has a monopoly on art. We have regional art centres in several major cities all over the globe. Until World War I however, and especially after World War II, when it moved to New York, the centre of gravity of the art in the western world was Paris. During the nineteenth century, Germany had its Expressionists, the U.S. was still enthralled with Americana, Rome was the centre for the study of art antiquities, and even London kept a watchful eye across the channel on the art makers and shakers of France. And dominating this powerhouse of creative endeavour for much of the century was the dictatorial presence of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. From all over the world, the greatest creative talents in the arts and architecture flowed to Paris to drink of its stagnant waters.
At the time, everyone agreed that painting should be "official"--controlled by the government. Despite the political turmoil in France during the 1800's, where art was concerned, the Academy ruled. Until men like Cézanne, Renoir, Monet, and others broke the stranglehold of the Academy upon the French art world, no French artist could hope to be successful unless he'd attended the Academy's Ecole and more importantly had his works accepted for showing at the Academy's yearly exhibition, known simply as "The Salon". Powering this artistic locomotive, in 1860 for example, there were 200 Parisian columnist writing about art and over 4,000 artists working in this veritable "art factory".
Contributed by Lane, Jim
4 November 1997