What is Academic Art?

The term "academic art" (sometimes called "academicism" or "eclecticism") is traditionally used in the visual arts. Characterizes the realistic style of sculpture and painting developed by  European art academies, especially the French Academy of Fine Arts.

Academic art was created by artists who received formal training at European academies, particularly in France. The theme or focus of the work had a moral tone, mythological or historical content, and was beautifully crafted.

What Exactly is Academic Art?

Academic drawing allows artists to create works according to a strict set of rules for visualizing and analyzing their ideas. Drawing is a skill you need to master when creating art.

Characteristics of Academic Art

It's essential to grasp the distinct features of academic art, as it holds significant influence in the art world. This genre of art has risen to prominence thanks to the vast range of artistic techniques it encompasses.

1. Rationality:

The Academy wanted to promote an "intellectual" style of art. For example, in contrast to the "sensual" style of Rococo, the "socially conscious" style of French Realism, the "visual" style of Impressionism, and the "emotional" style of Expressionism. It considers art to be an intellectual discipline that requires a high degree of rationality, which is why the "rationality" of painting is important. 

This rationality was illustrated by the theme of the work, the use of classical or religious allegories, and/or references to classical, historical, or allegorical themes. Careful planning was also important, including preliminary sketches and the use of wax models.

2. Message:

Great emphasis is placed on the "message" of the painting, it must be properly "enlightened" and contain a high moral content. This principle became the basis of the official "hierarchy of genres" first promulgated by the President of the French Academy in 1669. Genres are listed in order of importance as follows: 

(1) History Paintings.

(2) The art of portraiture.

(3) Genre painting.

(4) Landscape.

(5) Still life.

The idea was that historical images were a better platform to convey noble messages. Battle scenes and works of Biblical art convey clear moral messages about courage or spirituality (for example), but still-life pictures in vases struggle to achieve the same. Artists succeeded in giving moral content to all kinds of images, including still lifes.

See, for example, the genre of vanitas painting popularized by Harmen van Steenwyck (1612-56) and others. This genre typically depicts a series of symbolic objects, each conveying a series of moral messages based on the futility of living without Christian values.

3. Colors and Perspective:

According to Renaissance theory, linear perspective and geometric distortion were determined by complex laws. The same thing happens with phototherapy and chiaroscuro. Minimize the use of bright colors.

For more than two centuries, the meaning of color has been debated in academic circles. For example, grass must be green. Due to this reason, Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist art were excluded from academic recognition.


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