Exhibition | Gods and Heroes

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on April 21, 2014


Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jeroboam Sacrificing to the Idols,
48 x 62 inches, 1752 (École des Beaux-Arts, Paris)

From the American Federation of Arts:

Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris
Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 19 June — 14 September 2014
Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, 12 October 2014 — 4 January 2015
The Baker Museum, Naples, Florida, 19 February — 17 May 2015
Portland Art Museum, 13 June — 13 September 2015

This rich overview of masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts—the original school of fine arts in Paris and a repository for work by Europe’s most renowned artists since the seventeenth century—will include approximately 140 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper dating from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. The focus will be on epic themes such as courage, sacrifice, and death, as well as the ways that changing political and philosophical systems affected the choice and execution of these subjects. Among the featured works will be paintings by Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Anne-Louis Girodet, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres; sculpture by Antoine-Louis Barye, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Jean-Antoine Houdon, and François Rude; drawings by François Boucher, Leonardo da Vinci, Nicolas Poussin, Titian, and Jean-Antoine Watteau; and prints by Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt van Rijn.

The epic deeds of gods and heroes, enshrined in the Bible and the works of Homer, were the primary narratives from which both aspiring and established academicians drew their inspiration.  Their ideology was rooted in the study of the idealized human form as envisioned in classical art. At the École, learning how to construct persuasive and powerful paintings from carefully delineated anatomy, expressive faces, and convincing architectural and landscape settings was understood by aspiring artists to be the route to success and recognition.

Gods and Heroes will offer unique insight into the development of an aesthetic ideology that fostered some of western art’s most magnificent achievements. Among the  masterworks included will be Fragonard’s Jeroboam Sacrificing to the Idols; Joseph-Marie Vien’s David Resigns Himself to the Will of the Lord, Who Struck His Kingdom of the Plague (1743); Jacques-Louis David’s Erasistratus Discovers the Cause of Antiochus’s Disease (1774); and Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres’s Achilles Receiving the Ambassadors of Agamemnon (1801).


Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Ambassadors to Agamemnon Visiting Achilles,
45 x 58 inches, 1801 (École des Beaux-Arts, Paris)

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From Giles:

Emmanuel Schwartz, Emmanuelle Brugerolles, and Patricia Mainardi, Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris (London: D. Giles Limited, 2014), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1907804120, £40 / $60.

9781907804120Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris will be published by D Giles Limited, in association with the American Federation of Arts in June 2014. This fully illustrated volume examines the pivotal role of the École des Beaux-Arts in influencing so much of the history, content and style of late- 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century European art

Not only did the École train generations of artists, but it also served as a repository for work by the most renowned artists in Europe. In three essays, as well as in over 200 catalogue entries and colour plates, the volume tells a fascinating, multi-layered story. On one level it is a study of the role of the epic deeds of classical and biblical gods and heroes in the work of generations of artists in France and beyond. On another level, it explores the impact of the École des Beaux-Arts’ curriculum on Western visual culture, and the persistence of the classical tradition.

From the late 17th through to the mid-19th century, the École was a highly competitive, government school that rigorously trained artists to fulfill the needs of royal, state, and church patrons. In so doing, the École created a particular ‘way of seeing’ that created the established aesthetic and ideological norms in French artistic production right through to the First World War, and provided the backdrop against which the modernist ‘revolution’ from the mid-19th century emerged and developed.

Gods and Heroes features 208 extraordinary art works from the collection of the École, dating from the 17th to the 19th century, including important works by such masters as Antoine- Louis Barye, François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Jacques-Louis David, Leonardo da Vinci, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jean-Auguste- Dominique Ingres, Charles Le Brun, Charles Natoire, Nicolas Poussin, Carle Van Loo, and Jean-Antoine Watteau

Emmanuel Schwartz is Chief Curator of Heritage at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris and the author of The Legacy of Homer: Four Centuries of Art from the École Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2005). Emmanuelle Brugerolles is Chief Curator of Drawings at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Her most recent publication is The Male Nude: Eighteenth-Century Drawings from the Paris Academy (2013). Patricia Mainardi is Professor Emerita, Doctoral Program in Art History, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the author of Husbands, Wives and Lovers: Marriage and Its Discontents in Nineteenth-Century France (2003).

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