Like the Renaissance, Neo-Classicism draw it’s inspiration from the ancient Greek and Rome art, culture and mythology. This was partly inspired by archaeological discoveries. The highpoint of this art-movement was from about 1780 till 1830, but in the teachings of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts the ideals of Neo-Classicism stayed central throughout the whole of the 19th century. This is also called Academicism
Central stood the idealized human body and historical, heroic, mythological, moralistic and religious themes.  Landscapes were just a background for these themes, more idealised and copied from old masters in the Louvre, than observed in real nature. Art had to be beautiful and educational. The emphasize lay on line and composition. They used very smooth brushstrokes, rendering pinpoint details and letting the colours blend. It was a more rational form of art. With Romanticism it (sometimes) has in common a sense of drama and heroism and an interest for oriental themes (Orientalism).
Here below I will render the most important representatives in a chronological order. Most of them also were teachers at the École des Beaux-Arts and members of the Institut.


David (Jacques-Louis; 1748-1825):
David studied with François Boucher (1703–1770), who was a Rococo painter and with Joseph-Marie Vien (1716–1809) and attended the Royal Academy. In 1774, after 3 failures, he won the Prix de Rome and subsequently studied at the French Academy in Rome from 1775 till 1780. He made his debut at the Salon of 1781. In 1782 he started his own atelier having many illustrious pupils, the most famous being Ingres. David had republican sympathies and supported the French revolution (1789), rendering in some paintings the unity of men in the service of a patriotic ideal. Before the Revolution the Royal Academy was controlled by royalists, who opposed David’s attempts at reform. After the Revolution the National Assembly ordered it to make changes to conform to the new constitution. David was appointed in the Légion d’honneur, in 1803 as Chevalier, in 1808 as Officier and in 1815 as Commandant. After 1799, when Napoleon had become the first consul, David would become the court painter of Napoleon. After the imprisonnement of Napoleon and the reinstallation of the Bourbon monarchy, David went in 1816 in exile and died in 1825 in Brussels. Still, his works were continued to be bought by the French state.
(My main sources are: R13,p170/1;R293,p366-379;iR1; iR3; iR23.)

Ingres (Jean-Auguste-Dominique; 1780-1867):
Ingres was born in Montauban (where they have Musée Ingres = M197) and later moved to Paris. There he joined in 1797 the Atelier of David. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1799-1801. After failing in 1800 Ingris won the Prix de Rome in 1801. He made his debut at the Salon in 1802. From 1806 till 1824 he lived in Rome and Florence. He made a living by painting portraits. In 1824 he had a great succes at the Salon. In 1825 he became a member of the Academy (de l’Institut) and in 1829 professor at the École National des Beaux-Arts. At the Salon of 1834 he received many accusations of historical inaccuracy, for the feminine appearance of the Saint, who looked like a beautiful statue. In anger, Ingres announced that he would no longer participate in the Salon. From 1835 till 1841 he was director of the French Academy in Rome. Back in Paris he received several commissions. In 1853 he became president of the École. In 1863 he still was professor at the École. Ingres was appointed in the Légion d’Honneur, in 1824 as Chevalier, in 1826 as Officier and 1845/05/01 as Commandeur.
In 1855 the Salon was part of the Exposition Universelle. In a room there was a large review with 41 catalogue numbers containing 68 works, including 25 stained glass cartons and 12 portraits. Many of these works had already been exhibited at previous Salons. (iR1) Ingres his works were not present at the Exposition Universelle of 1867. He had died the 14th  of Januari. Still, there was a posthumous exhibition held at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (R5,p42). In 1878 his works were absent. At the Exposition Centennale in 1889 7 paintings were exhibited and 30 other works, including 27 drawings. In 1900 there were at least 17 paintings (including 11 portraits). (R231) In 1905 there also was a large review with 68 catalogue numbers of Ingres at the Salon d’Automne, including 23 paintings (of which 15 portrait), 24 studies and fragments, 19 drawings and 2 other works (iR1). You could say that around the turn of the age, Ingres was notably represented as a portraitist and a draughtsman and not with neo-classicist works.
His paintings have a cool harmonic colouring. They have an objective and rational charecter. Ingres was admired by Degas and Rouart, they also had works of Ingres in their collection. Since about 1883 also by Renoir followed more the influence of Ingres. At the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874 Ingres was honoured by a portrait of Auguste Ottin and 2 reproductions of Félix Bracquemond↓. Desboutin portrayed him making an etch after a painting. (My main sources are R3,p670;R13,p350-2;R31,p179;R210,p21;R293,p391-397;iR1;iR2;iR3; iR23.) In 2023 there was an exposition in Château Chantilly.


Gleyre (Charles; 1806-74):
Charles Gleyre was born in 1806 near Lausanne in Switzerland (or in 1808; R9). 1825 onwards he attended the École des Beaux-Arts and the studios of Hersent, Bonington and the Academie Suisse. He stayed in Rome in Italy from 1829-34 and travelled from 1834-38 in Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. He exhibited irregularly at the Salon in 1833+40+43+45+49, the last time exempté. In 1843 he had received a 2nd class medal. He used rich and bright colours. Gleyre had republican sympathies and refused to admit to the Salon and receive the Légion d’Honneur during the second Empire (1851-1870). Gleyre combined Romanticism with Neo-Classicism. In 1843 Gleyre took over the studio of Paul Delaroche, see Atelier Gleyre.
(My main sources are R3,p665;R9,p337;R88I,p298;R22I,p45;R293,p397;iR1;iR3;iR23.)


Pils (Isidore; 1813-1875):
Pils entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1831 and was a pupil of Lethière and Picot. He won the Prix de Rome for history painting in 1838 and consequently studied at the Villa Medici in Rome under Ingres↑. He exhibited from 1845 till his death in 1875 at the Salon, except in 1863+65+67+68+70+72. He received a second class medal in 1846 and 1855 and a first class medal in 1857, in that year he also was appointed Chevalier de Légion d’Honneur. In 1859 + 61 he exhibited ‘exempté’ and from 1866-75 ‘hors concours’. He received a Médaille d’Honneur in 1861. Pils was part of the Jury of the Salon in 1865. In 1863 he was for a short time professor at the École des Beaux-Arts. From 1863-65 he stayed in Alger. At the Exposition Universelle in 1867 he received a 1st class medal. He was appointed in the Légion d’Honneur in 1867 as Officier. In 1868 he was appointed at the Académie des Beaux-Arts. From 1872-75 Cordey, Franc Lamy and Goeneutte were pupils of Pils. Other pupils were Piette and Somm. He painted many military, mythological and religious themes.
My main sources are R9,p591; R31,p179; R88II,p389; R231/iR40; R259; R337; iR1; iR4; iR5; iR6; iR23.


Cabanel (Alexandre; 1823-89):
Alexandre Cabanel received the 2nd price of the Prix de Rome in 1845 and afterwards went to Rome. In 1855 he received a 1st class medal at the Exposition Universelle and later the year was appointed Chevalier de Légion d’honneur. After the Salon in 1863 Napoleon III had bought his ‘birth of Venus’ for 40.000 franc. In 1863 he became  member of the Académie / L’Institut. From 1864 till 1889 he was professor at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1864 he also was appointed Officier de Légion d’honneur. In 1865 and in 1867 he received a Médaille d’Honneur. From 1868 till 1888 he was 17x member of the jury of the Salon. At the Exposition Universelle in 1878 he received a Grande médaille d’honneur. In 1884 he was appointed Commandeur in the Légion d’honneur.
Cabanel depicted many historical, religious and mythological themes. Sometimes depicting much drama, which puts him a bit in the Romantic tradition. A recurring theme was Saint Louis d’Alexandre, which he exhibited at the Expositions Universelles of 1855, 1878 and 1889 and also at the Salon of 1877.
(My main sources are R3,p60;R231;R259;R337;iR1;iR3;iR23;)


Gérôme (Jean-Léon; 1824-1904):
Gérôme was born in Vesoul in the Haute-Saône and went to Paris in 1840. He studied with Paul Delaroche from 1840/41 till 1844, also in Italy. He continued studying at the same studio now led by Gleyre (see above). He attended the École des Beaux-Arts. He failed for the Prix de Rome in 1846. With his debut at the Salon in 1847 he won a 3rd class medal in history painting, though the work hung on a bad spot. In 1848 and 1855 he won a 2nd class medal. From 1857-63 he exhibited ‘exempté’. In 1865 he was appointed as a member of the Institut de France and still was in 1889. Since 1866 he exhibited ‘hors concours’ at the Salon. He was appointed in the Légion d’Honneur in 1855 as Chevalier, in 1867 as Officier and in 1878 as commandeur. He received a Médaille d’Honneur in 1867, 1874 and 1878. (R337; not in 1875 as Monneret mentions, R88II,p397). At the Exposition Universelle of 1889 he exhibited Hors Concours.
Gérôme started a studio around 1860/64 and would have more than 2000 pupils. Among his students were: Cassatt, Cordey, Forain, Franc Lamy, de Nittis, Raffaëlli, Redon, Vidal and also Besnard, Goeneutte and Fernand Léger. He also teached at the École des Beaux-Arts (since 1863 or 67) and would do so for years. In 1867 he was appointed as one of the 3 professors (iR3).
Gérôme made several trips to the Near East in 1853 onwards, so we find also oriental themes in his paintings. He received several important commissions. Since the late 1870s he was also active and succesfull as a sculptor.
He devended the academic art against the Impressionists and in 1894 was against accepting the Legacy of Caillebotte, saying ‘If the state accepts such rubbish, moral decay must be very advanced.’ (R3,p664). In 1900 being part of the organizing commitee of the Exposition Universelle, he couldn’t prefend there was a room for the Impressionists. He disdainfully said: ’this is the dishonour of French art’ (R88I,p293;R9,p326). Still, Cézanne copied (around 1869) some of Gérôme his works and Degas regularly dined with him.
(My main sources are R3,p664;R9,p325/6;R11,p50/1+400/1;R88I,p292;R88II,p1012; R231;R259;R337; iR1;iR3;iR6;iR23.)


Bouguereau (William-Adolphe; 1825-1905):
Bouguereau was born 1825/11/30 in La Rochelle. Went to Paris in 1846 and became a student at the École des Beaux-Arts and studied at the studio of Picot. He took extra lessons in he  anatomical dissections, historical costumes and archeology. After having failed in 1848 and 1849 Bouguereau won the Prix de Rome in 1850 and subsequently studied at the Académie de France at the Villa Medici in Rome under Ingris↑ from 1851/01 till 1854/04. He made his debut at the Salon in 1849 and would exhibit here till his death in 1905, except in 1852 and 1900. He received a second class medal in 1855 and a first class in 1857. At the Exposition Universelle of 1867 he had received a 3rd class medal. He received a Médaille d’Honneur in 1878 (at the Exposition Universelle) and in 1885. At the Exposition Universelle of 1889 he exhibited Hors Concours. He was appointed in the Légion d’Honneur as Chevalier in 1859, as Officier in 1876, as Commandeur in 1885 and (posthumously?) as Grand Officier in 1905.
Since 1875 he was a professor at the Academie Julian. Among his students were Bonnard, Denis, Matisse and Vuillard (R3,p644). He was member of the Académie since 1876 and still was in 1889. When he was in the Jury of the Salon he opposed impressionist admissions.
He painted many portraits, historical scenes, (sentimental) religious themes, moral lessons (for children) and many erotic (mythological) female nudes. He also would depict scenes from the country side, you could say a bit in a Naturalist style, but centralised therein well formed and clean women.
(My main sources are: R3,p208+649;R9,p114;R88I,p71;R231;iR1; iR4; iR5; iR23)


My main sources are Walther (2013=R3,p16), Schilderkunst van A tot Z (1987=R13,p136/7); Monneret (1978-81=R88), Cuzin (1982=R97,p85/6), Krausse (=R172,p51-53); the Exposition Universelle catalogues (R231), the explications de Salon (R337+R338), Rauch (2000=R293,p366-412); the Salon database (iR1), WikiPedia (iR3; iR4; iR5), Joconde (iR23). See the link for other general References (=Rx) and to the internet references (=iRx). See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings. See links for more info and info + pictures.




Recommanded citation: “Meta-Impressionism: Neo-Classicism. Last modified 2024/03/09.

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