Academic art and new directions

The Academy and beyond

Studying in Paris at the Académie des Beaux-Arts was an essential part of many artists’ training, and the French model was replicated in many European countries. Founded in 1648 to educate the most gifted students (women were first admitted in 1897) in drawing, sculpture, painting and other media, Academy teachings were grounded in the classical art of Greek and Roman antiquity. Students typically worked from sculptural plaster casts or nude models.

Inspired by the example of France, Denmark established its own school of painting in 1822. Hitherto, the Royal Danish Academy of Art had only offered courses in drawing. From 1833 onwards, its students were also given the opportunity to paint and draw studies of female models.

As a student, Danish artist Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853) travelled widely in  Germany, Italy and France, where he studied in 1811-12 under neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David, who had a major influence on early 19th century academic painting. Sometimes referred to as the “Father of Danish painting”, Eckersberg influenced many Danish artists during his professorship at the Royal Danish Academy of Art, where he was Director from 1827-29. Notably, Eckersberg encouraged his pupils to study nature directly in the field, rather than indoors, and to observe everyday life.

Eckersberg posed the models that his students drew and painted, often working alongside his pupils. He often transferred these figure studies to domestic settings, to create intimate depictions of everyday subjects. In the painting above, the female model is Florentine, Eckersberg’s favourite model at the time, who can be recognised in several of his nude studies.

Like Eckersberg, Belgian artist François-Joseph Navez (1787-1869) was also taught by Jacques-Louis David. As well as being a successful portrait artist, Navez painted historical, mythological and religious subjects, such as Saint Cécile of Rome, 1824.

Navez later became the director of the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, serving from 1835-1862. Click here to explore more of Navez’s art on Europeana.

Greek artist Theodoros Vryzakis (1814-78) grew up during a turbulent period of his nation’s history. Following the death of his father, and several years spent in an orphanage with his brother, Vryzakis went to Munich in 1832 to study at the Panhellenion, a Greek school founded by Ludwig I for the orphans of the veterans of the Greek War of Independence. Twelve years later, he was accepted as a student by the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.

Influenced by contemporary Bavarian painters such as Karl Krazeisen, Joseph Karl Steiler and Peter von Hess, Vryzakis employed a neoclassical, romantic style to depict people and events from recent Greek history, in paintings such as The Reception of Lord Byron at Missolonghi, 1861. Vryzakis’s work was widely circulated in Greece in the form of lithographs. His pictures became established in the public’s mind as authentic depictions of modern Greek history. Visit the website of the National Gallery - Alexandros Soutsos Museum to further explore the art of Theodoros Vryzakis.