Academy and Salon Exhibition
From January 30 to May 6, 2018, the Academy and Salon exhibition is running at the National Museum of China, at which 103 academic art works from the French Revolution to the First World War are on display.
Jupiter and Thetis, a famous painting by French artist Jean-auguste-dominique Ingres (1780-1867), was removed from its original frame, placed into a custom-tailored box and flown to China for its first trip away from Europe and inaugural exhibition in China. This is also its first departure from its home museum in the past 40 years.
From January 30 to May 6, 2018, the Academy and Salon exhibition is running at the National Museum of China, at which 103 academic art works from the French Revolution to the First World War are on display. The works are from collections of two important French institutions: Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts (ENSBA) and Center National des Arts Plastiques (National Center for Visual Arts, CNAP).
Academic art originated in Italy in the 16th century and became popular throughout Europe, particularly in the UK, France and Russia. It was also a popular subject at various art schools throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Boasting a long history of over 300 years, ENSBA is an institution that exerts far-reaching influence on European art as well as the 20th-century Chinese works. The first generation of Chinese oil painters and painting masters including Xu Beihong, Lin Fengmian, Chang Shuhong, Fang Junbi and Liu Kaiqu ever studied at the school.
ENSBA’S academic system has become a model for other art academies. Since its founding in 1648, the school has collected more than 450,000 works and shared them with the public through exhibitions and lending to other institutions.
Some of the exhibits are from CNAP, which is a national art collecting institution bestowed with the right to manage the registration of public collectibles throughout French history. To promote and increase the value of its collection, the center often lends its collections to various museums. The center’s widely diverse collection includes works from Chinese artists who studied in France. Chang Shuhong’s Feverishly Sick depicting Chang’s sick wife is among them and featured at the exhibition.
“The first Chinese work to join the CNAP’S collection was a painting depicting Luxembourg in the snow, completed by Liu Haisu (18961994) in 1931,” reveals Anne-sophie de Bellegarde, general secretary of CNAP. “We do not have a regular venue for display but instead loan works to museums and institutions. About 2,000 works from our collection are shown around the world each year, which effectively keeps these works popular and enhances the influence of French culture and art.”
Sacred Hall of Beauty
The first section of the exhibition is titled “Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts: Sacred Hall of Beauty.”
The rediscovery of Pompeii inspired the rise of neoclassicism in the early 18th century. ENSBA tightly embraced neoclassicism as an academic style in the 19th century, so curators chose the red walls of Pompeii as the background for this section.
This section demonstrates how ENSBA nurtured artists in the 19th century and how contest systems like the Grand Prix de Rome shaped the styles of artists. Students at ENSBA receive strict systemic training
including copying classics, sketching and learning anatomy. Ingres, once the president of the school, stressed on the importance of practicing sketching. “Sketching is the gymnastics of art,” Ingres said. That sentence was so impressive to Xu Beihong, who studied at the institution before becoming the president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts of China, that he introduced sketching into China’s academic teaching system for art.
ENSBA opened a satellite campus in Rome in 1666 and encouraged promising French artists to stay in Rome to study for three to five years on the state’s dime. Only the winners of the Grand Prix de Rome were offered such an opportunity. Consequently, competition in the Grand Prix de Rome during the school year was intense and featured many big names.
“Before they became artists, young students received training and took part in various competitions,” explains Philippe Cinquini, the exhibition’s French curator. “Winning the most prestigious art award, Grand Prix de Rome, ensured that their works would be shown in the Salon exhibition, the most important art display of that time. This exhibition traces the artist’s journey from student to salon artist. ”
“The exhibition displays the full story of French art in the 19th century,” adds Pan Qing, the exhibition’s Chinese curator. “This shows how an art student became an art celebrity in the 19th century in France.” Mirror of Times
ENSBA’S Salon Exhibitions also contributed greatly to the prosperity of French art from the 18th to the 19th century. Since 1737, the school has held an annual Royal Painting and Sculpture Salon Exhibition at the Salon Carre in the Louvre, which later became known as the Salon Exhibition. The exhibition mechanism provided artists with new fans and sponsors, stimulating a more energetic and diverse art circle and new art trends.
Against a Napoleon green background, the second section of the exhibition, titled “Salon: Stage of Art, Mirror of Times,” displays stand-out works from previous Salon Exhibitions including Ingres’ Jupiter and Thetis and Jules-alexandre Grun’s Friday at French Artists’ Salon. The latter depicts 111 real people including artists, the thenpresident, collectors, reporters, singers, dancers and dramatists. It was finished in 1911, the 30th anniversary of the Salon Exhibition. This painting measures 3.6 meters high and 6 meters wide. Because it was too big to be placed upright on the plane for transportation from France to Beijing, staff had to remove the painting from its original frame and roll it up to transport it. The work was accompanied by a restoration expert throughout the trip.
“We are honored to display works from Chinese artists Chang Shuhong and Fang Junbi, who once studied in France,” says Philippe Cinquini. “The 19th century was a century of art for France. Art was a mirror, reflecting advancing science and democracy at that time. And it was also art that connected France and China.”
Jupiter and Thetis by Jean-auguste-dominique Ingres, oil on canvas, 327×260 cm, 1811 © CNAP
Feverishly Sick by Chang Shuhong, oil on canvas, 58×74.5cm, 1931 ©CNAP
Friday at French
Artists’ Salon by JulesAlexandre Grun, oil on canvas, 362×617cm, 1911 ©CNAP
The Second Courtyard of the École des Beaux
Arts by Charles-léon Vinit, oil on canvas, 91×115 cm, 1850 ©ENSBA