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New Academic Painting and the Salon
The classical tradition did not come to an end with the rise of Romanticism or the Barbizon painters in the early to mid-1800s. Rather, it remained the official style of both the Académie and the state. This figurative and quite eclectic tradition continued to favour the depiction of mythological subjects in a highly refined way – as becomes evident in the works of Alexandre Cabanel – and attracted the attention of various collectors, among them Alfred Bruyas from Montpellier.
As had been the tradition, the new academic painters studied in Rome – often winners of the famous Prix de Rome, a distinction linked with a scholarship to travel to Italy – before becoming successful in Paris. A key player in this movement was Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. A student of Jacques-Louis David and one of the last, great history painters, Ingres continued to have a great impact on the evolution and reception of classical art until the end of the century. His influence is clearly evident in the work of a number of the academic painters represented in this room. These include Jean-Paul Flandrin, one of Ingres’ favourite students, Cabanel and Léon-François Benouville, who won the Prix de Rome in 1845 and went to Rome with Cabanel. Each of these painters developed a figurative and highly refined style, often the result of long sessions of anatomical study in front of a life model.
Images of the Orient continued to be popular at the Salon. Figure studies were often cast in an Orientalist setting, while landscapes of Asia Minor and the French colonies of North Africa were also regularly shown. Among the many artists who remained fascinated with the Orient was Jules Laurens, who depicted landscapes derived from careful observation and recordings made during long expeditions to Asia Minor.
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