Prix de Rome


Meta Impressionism

École des Beaux-Arts

Prix de Rome

for paintings 1863-1886


During the study at the École des Beaux-Arts there were several concours / exams held. The most important of them was the Prix de Rome. This gave the winner a bourse for a study at the Villa Medici in Rome and favourable prospects for the further career as an artist. On this page you will find some general info on the Prix de Rome and examples of price winning paintings. The focus is on the period 1863 till 1886. You will see that all paintings depict mythological, historical and religious themes. They were mainly made in a Néo-Classical style. Many winners had Néo-Classical teachers, namely Cabanel. In that sense you could say that the Prix de Rome was a bastion of Conservatism in art.


Prix de Rome:
The most important concours was the Prix du Rome, also called the grand prix de l’Académie Royale (especially for history painting). The winner received a bourse to study 5 years at the Académie the France in the Villa Medici in Rome (R3,p660;iR3). After completing this additional study some became professor at the École des Beaux-Arts or even member of L’Institut (R3,p18).
This concours of the Prix de Rome was held since 1664 (R88II,p197) or 1663 (iR23). During the French revolution the Prix de Rome was first abolished in 1793 and re-established in 1797 (iR3). Since 1863/11/13 the Prix de Rome for historical landscape stopped, after it started in 1817 (R59,p183;R60,p97+116;R5,p26;R3,p660;R290,p11+20) and the age to partake went from 30 to 25 years, something Sisley and others objected to (R88I,p882; note Sisley still was 24 by then). The Prix de Rome was cancelled in 1968 (iR23).
In 1836 Auguste Ottin won the Grand Prix de Rome for sculpture (iR23;R337).  None of the other partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions ever won the Prix de Rome. 1864/04/05 Renoir (wrongly written as ‘Renouard’) did an examination (for the Prix de Rome concours) for draughtsmen and sculptors, he became 10th out of 106 and maybe depicting Ulysses bending his bow that the suitors did not bend (see iR23; R31,p295;R88II,p1012).

The winners of the Prix de Rome 1863-1886:
Let us look at the Prix de Rome for paintings provided in the years 1863 till 1886. These were the years that the ‘impressionists’ (who were mostly painters) tried to become known, also through their own expositions. The awarded paintings with the Prix de Rome are an indication of the standard that was used in these years at the École des Beaux-Arts. When we look at the themes that were commissioned, than we see that they all were mythological, historical and religious themes. The brushstroke is quite smooth, many details are rendered, there is a clear composition and the dominant bodies comply with the standards of beauty. In that sense you could say they all were made in a Néo-Classical style. We also see that 10 of the 24 themes depict death (↓ depicted with an *). All scenes are depicted in a quite dramatic way. In that sense you could say they all were made in a Romantic tradition. This confirms the statement of Rauch that the boundary between Classicism and Romanticism is vague (R293,p330). On the other hand, more recent historical themes, themes from more recent literature and dramatic landscapes that are often depicted in Romantic paintings,  are no themes for the Prix de Rome. Neither will you find a more loose and lively brushstroke, that is often used in Romantic paintings. So, in that sense the Prix de Rome stands mainly in the Néo-Classical tradition.
The information on many winners and the number of their pictures known is limited. Several winners were pupils of Néo-Classical teachers, namely of Cabanel. Some winners (partly) go on painting in a Néo-Classical style, many vary in style and are known as portraitists. Some will be highly awarded afterwards, some receive a role in the École des Beaux-Arts and become member of L’Institut, but many don’t.
All paintings had about the same measures (145×113 or 113×145) and they now all are in the musée de l’Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris (M9). (aR3)

The winners of the painting section were (aR3=iR23):
1863: Monchablon (Xavier Alphonse) (1835-1907): Joseph se fait reconnaître par ses frères (Joseph is recognised by his brothers; biblical scene). (iR23; pupil of Cornu and Gleyre; received several medals, including a golden medal at the Exposition Universelle in 1900 iR3; he namely depicted religious scenes and portraits iR6)
1864: Maillart (Diogène-Ulysse-Napoléon) (1840-1926): Homère dans l’île de Scyros (Homer on the island of Scyros; mythological scene) (iR23; pupil of Cogniet iR3; he depicted namely Néo-Classical themes and portraits iR6). Received a medal in 1867. He was appointed in the Légion d’Honneur in 1870 as Chevalier.(R337)
1865: Machard (Jules Louis) (1839-1900): Orphée descendu aux Enfers demander Eurydice (Orpheus descends to the Underworld to seek Eurydice; mythological scene). (iR23; pupil of Signol and Hébert; history painter and portraitist;  iR4; iR6)
1866*: Regnault (Henri) (1843-1871): Thétis apporte à Achille les armes forgées par Vulcain (Thetis brings Achilles the weapons forged by Vulcan; mythological scene) (iR23; pupil of Louis Lamothe and Cabanel; iR3; iR4; iR6)
1867*: Blanc (Joseph Paul) (1846-1904): Le meurtre de Laïus par Oedipe (The murder of Laius by Oedipus; mythological scene) (iR23)
1868*: Blanchard (Edouard Théophile) (1844-1879): La mort d’Astyanax (The death of Astyanax; mythological scene). (iR23; pupil of Picard and Cabanel iR3; iR4; iR6)
1869Merson (Luc Olivier) (1846-1920): Le soldat de Marathon (The soldier of Marathon; mythological scene). (iR23)
1870*: Lematte (Jacques François Fernand) (1850-1929): La mort de Messaline (The death of Messalina; mythological scene). (iR23)
1871*: Toudouze (Edouard) (1848-1907): Les adieux d’Oedipe aux cadavres de sa femme et de ses fils (Oedipus’ farewell to the corpses of his wife and sons; mythological scene). (iR23)
1872: Ferrier (Gabriel) (1847-1914): Une scène du Déluge (A scene from the Flood; biblical scene) (iR23)
1873: Morot (Aimé) (1850-1913): La captivité des Juifs à Babylone (The Jewish captivity in Babylon; biblical scene). (iR23)
1874*: Besnard (Albert) (1849-1934): La mort de Timophane. (iR23)

1875Comerre (Léon François) (1850-1916): 1875, L’Annonciation aux bergers (The Annunciation to the Shepherds; biblical scene).(iR23; pupil of Cabanel; 1903 Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur iR3; depicted Néo-Classical themes, Oriental themes and elegant ladies iR6)
2nd price: Bastien-Lepage (Jules) (1848-84): L’Annonciation aux bergers (The Annunciation to the Shepherds; biblical scene). (iR23;)
1876: Wencker (Joseph) (1848-1919): Priam aux pieds d’Achille (Priam at the feet of Achilles; mythological scene). (iR23; pupil of Gérôme iR4; iR6)
1877Chartran (Théobald) (1849-1907): La prise de Rome par les Gaulois (The capture of Rome by the Gauls; historical scene) (iR23; pupil of Cabanel iR3; iR6; Born in Besançon; Received at the Salon a 3rd class medal in 1877, a 2nd class medal in 1881 and a medaille d’argent (=2nd class medal) at the Exposition Universelle in 1889 (R337)
1878*: Schommer (François) (1850-1935): Auguste au tombeau d’Alexandre (Augustus at the tomb of Alexander; historical scene) (iR23; pupil of Pils and Lehmann; 1910 professeur at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian; 1924 member of L’Institut; Chevalier and Officier de la Légion d’Honneur iR3; iR6). Note: WikiPedia claims that Julius Schmid (1854–1935) also won the Prix de Rome in 1878 (iR3), this is not confirmed by Joconde (iR23).
1879*: Bramtot (Alfred Henri) (1852-94): La mort de Démosthène (The death of Demosthenes; mythological scene). (iR23; pupil of Bouguereau; 1890s professor at the Académie Julian iR3; iR6)
1880: Doucet (Henri-Lucien) (1856-1895): La reconnaissance d’Ulysse et de Télémaque (The recognition of Ulysses and Telemachus; mythological scene). (iR23)
1881: Fournier (Louis Edouard Paul) (1857-1917): La colère d’Achille (The anger (or wrath) of Achilles; mythological scene) (iR23; pupil of Cabanel, Lefebvre and Boulanger iR3; iR4; iR6)
1882*: Popelin (Gustave) (1859-1937): Mattathias refuse de sacrifier aux idoles (Mattathias refuses to sacrifice to idols; biblical scene). (iR23; iR4; iR6)
1883: Baschet (Marcel) (1862-1941): Oedipe maudit son fils Polynice (Oedipus curses his son Polynices; mythological scene) (iR23; pupil of Jules Lefebvre and Gustave Boulanger; 1898 Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur; 1908 médaille d’honneur; 1913 member Académie des Beaux-Arts iR3; mainly portraitist iR6)
1884*: Pinta (Henri Louis Marius) (1856-1944): Le serment de Brutus après la mort de Lucrèce (Brutus’ oath after Lucretius’ death; historical scene). (iR23; pupil Cabanel of and Jules Lefebvre iR3; iR6)
1885: Axilette (Alexis) (1860-1931): Thémistocle se réfugie chez Admète (Themistocles takes refuge with Admetus; historical scene) (iR23; Born in Durtal (Maine-et-Loire), honorable mention in 1884 (R337/1890); pupil of Gérôme iR3; iR6)
1886Lebayle (Charles) (1856-98): Claude proclamé empereur (Claudius proclaimed emperor; historical scene) (iR23; iR4; pupil of Cabanel and Adolphe Yvon iR3; iR6)

The winners of the Prix de Rome 1890-1914:
The catalogue of the Salon des Indépendants of 1934 renders a list of winners from 1890-1914: Mitrecey; J.A. Leroux; Dechenaud; Larée; Moulin; Gibert; Laparra; Roger; Sabatte; Jacquot-Defrance; Sieffert; Guetin; Monchablon; Roganeau; G.P. Leroux; Billotey; Aubry; Lefeuvre; Bodard; Dupas; Marco de Gastyne; Girodon; Giraud. The catalogue suggests that these representatives of the academic art are forgotten (aR10,p15). When we look at the overview given at WikiPedia we see links to information of 7 artists; 13 don’t have a link. When we look at the titles they (mostly) depict mythological, historical and religious themes (aR3=iR23).


General sources:
My main sources are Walther (2013=R3), Denvir (R5), Raeburn (1985=R31), Wildenstein (1996=R22I), Adams (1994=R59), Monneret (1978-81=R88), Pissarro & Durand-Ruel (2005=R116I), the Exposition Universelles catalogues (R231), 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.

For further reading:
Grunchec, Philippe: Le grand Prix de peinture, les concours des prix de Rome de 1797 à 1863. Paris, 1983. (iR23)

Additional sources (=aRx):

  1. WikiPedia//École des Beaux-Arts (page on WikiPedia = iR3)
  2.École des Beaux-Arts (page on jss gallery =iR359)
  3. de Rome + 2nd half 19th century (343 art-works that received the Prix de Rome (101 in the second half of the 19th century); =iR23)
  4. x



Recommanded citation: “Meta-Impressionism; École des Beaux-Arts; Prix de Rome (paintings 1863-86). Last modified 2023/06/27.