Faces of Europe

Academic art and new directions

The influence of Europe’s fine art academies – teaching predominantly in the romantic and neoclassical styles – held sway throughout the 19th century across many countries. Belgian artist François-Joseph Navez was a pupil of Jacques-Louis David, who was a major influence on academic Salon painting in the early 19th century. Navez became the director of the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels from 1835-1862.

In Denmark, young artists began to receive instruction in painting from the 1830s – the Danish Academy had previously only offered courses in drawing. Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg joined his students to paint and placed his models so as to create small depictions of everyday situations.

But there were also artists who worked outside the academy system, or who after returning home from their travels, took artistic directions of their own. In Lithuania, genre scenes depicting lifestyles, traditions, and customs were an essential part of Vilnius Romanticism. Kanutas Ruseckas studied in both Paris and Rome and his painting of a humble girl was seen as the symbol of 19th century fine art in Lithuania.