Link to 19thC Academies Notes
Nineteenth Century Academies and Exhibitions Their purpose was the formulation & control of art. Artists and nations were brought together. The first academies were established at the end of the 15thC in Italy in order to improve the status of the Renaissance artist. An attempt was made to elevate the status of the artist to that of literary men. The academy offered protection, status and security. They were modelled on the academies of literature. The notions of expression were taken from rhetoric and applied to art. Once artists are part of a central academy then there is a tendency for a central authority to use it to control art output. There is also a tendency for it to be conservative. See the slide of Louis XIV, a state style bought by state finance, propagating a style in its own interests. This is what happened in France. The artists also benefited as it helped then compete with foreign artists, gave then status and liberated them from the guild system. Its main function was the organisation of education and implementing a very strict process to train students in the “grand manner”. For example, the students had to spend one year copying engravings, a few years copying casts then life drawing and could not paint till then. The complete course took seven years or more. The academy held a monopoly on teaching the life class and this controlled the teaching of history pointing. They found it increasingly difficult to hang onto their monopoly during the 19thC. Invention was not originality but finding a novel way to express a standard ideal. Expression was learnt (slides 2 and 3) so that it could be used in history painting. A common language of expressions was used which meant they could be read by the viewer. Artist got around these restrictions however, for example, Reynolds, “epic portraiture” using classical props to paint Mrs. Siddons. French Academic ties changed with the political changes of the late 18thC and 19thC. The 1816 restoration of Bourbon monarchy brings restoration of the academy. Academicians did change (mostly) during the revolution. Before the revolution only academicians could exhibit but after anyone could submit to a Government selection process. After 1848 anyone could exhibit. In 1863 the number excluded was so high a Salon des Refuse was set up and Manet “le dejeuner sur l’herbe” was exhibited. During the 19thC alternatives to academy were established. One man shows, or a show giving by a group of artists, e.g. from 1874-1886 the impressionists held their own exhibition, Manet exhibited at the first and Seurat at last (see slides). Comparing academy and craft training. In France the aim of training was to produce a good copier financed by the monarchy. The artist copied the antique and nature (which they were expected to improve upon). It was a very hierarchical system, a carry over from the gild system. The student would first join the atelier of a master (often an academician) like an apprentice working for his master. The slide shows the process of outline drawing and how it was thought to originate with the “Corinthian Maid”, showing the origins of art lay in drawing and line. The student was taught to begin with a sketch (�l�ve). If you won the Prix de Rome you produced an agr�e which determined if you become an academician. Not all Prix de Rome winners became academicians. There were only 40 in Britain. You could run an atelier without being an academician. Nineteenth century reforms cut back drastically on artists who ran ateliers being able to submit works for the Prix de Rome as the number was growing too large. Seurat and Van Gogh copied the great masters to learn (see slides) as this was regarded as standard practice. Artists were meant to improve on their models (often tramps) to make them look like Antinous but Seurat did not do this (“Seurat’s drawing are some of the greatest works of art of the 19thC”). Artists even had to learn definitions by heart, e.g. they would be asked “what is a drawing” and they all had to repeat “a drawing is �”. The goal was exact imitation, slavish copying sometimes even including printing faults. The other principle was that of finish. A finished would not be sketchy, or painterly. Artists were encouraged to do a compositional sketch. The most important competition was the Prix de Rome. Slides 7 and 8 show industrial drawing being taught. It was only taught to produce better products (not artists). They did have occasional lectures on anatomy and there was agreement across Europe about the appropriate level of training. They did not want to inspire the students to be artists as this would unsettle them. London Thornhill and Hogarth set up schools but there was no official academy. Italian and French artists were gaining all the commissions. Britain lacked a cultural, artistic identity (and perhaps still does). The 5th Duke of Devonshire (see slide, red jacket leaning on a column with an urn on the left) would use an Italian painter following his Grand Tour. British aristocracy bought, for example, Claude not British art. Reynolds talk was to academicians, students and patrons. Taste was moral. So a nation needs taste to compete with foreign rivals otherwise it is just barbaric. The British academy was similar to the French but was not paid for by monarchy so was not in the royal pocket. On and off during the 19thC Parliament did pay for the academy. George did not want to pay for it in the first place. 40 members could put RA after name. If you served on the council you could get a salary. The disadvantage was control (for example, you could only exhibit at the academy if you did not exhibit elsewhere). The slide shows the Antique Academy in Old Somerset House. It shows the study from the antique. A major problem for women was not being able to attend the life class. It would have been unthinkable for women to attend. Zoffany includes women members as portraits. The RA’s chief source of income was the annual exhibition for which they charged. The admission charge prevented undesirables attending. They did introduce a free day but there were bitter arguments against it. In the old exhibition big pictures were rested on a ledge eight feet up but the best spot was “on the line” just below the ledge at eye level. The worst place was at the top, called being “skied”. There is a letter from Gainsborough complaining he had been skied and he never exhibited again. When it moved the line was abolished. Regional exhibitions were also very important, for example separate exhibitions were held for watercolour paintings and for women artists. Industrial training in Britain was at a Mechanics Institute. Birkbeck had a prestigious industrial design course run by Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), a radical Whig, he wanted to teach fine art to industrial students, his palette and brushes are now framed at Birkbeck. At the beginning of the 19thC Britain realised our industrial design was not good enough. A Special Commission was set up in the 1830s. Industrialists were buying French art. Benjamin Robert Haydon was continually campaigning. The commission found the Academy had failed in this area although it was part of its function. During the 1830s and 1840s there was a Whig campaign to teach art to the nation to make people moral and content. The Academy was attacked during this period as an elite Tory club. The other proposal the Select Committee came up with was specialist regional schools, museums artist and the public could visit and art works for public buildings. Schools of Design were carefully regulated to prevent competition with the RA. Students had to signs a document to say they would not produce “high art”. Teachers were salaried by the State. Of course, some students did want to become artists but could not afford to train for seven years at the RA. At the schools they would, for example, draw and shade acanthus leaves to use in wallpaper. William Dyce was the first director of these schools. He took it seriously and went to Paris and Germany. He thought our fees were too high and our teaching too narrow. He reduced fees and added some life class training. Women went to schools of design. Respectable women in straightened circumstances (one magazine explained “what if a Bank collapses, what would a respectable woman who has not been provided for do”) and artisans. RA was there to train national artists.