XV THE FRENCH
WHEN the creative energy of the Italian Renaissance was exhausted, the lamp of enlightenment passed into the hands of the French--and by French hands it has been tended to this day. For upwards of three centuries, France, or more precisely, Paris, has been esteemed as the centre of all that is intelligent, gracious and civilized, maintaining her supremacy less by outstanding individual genius than by a nationalistic attitude towards art, by the production of a culture universally acknowledged as a mark of the highest distinction. In the annals of French painting you will find few men capable of standing up with the masters of other nations; you will find instead an army of talent laboring for the glory of la patrie. One might say that the aim of the French has been the suppression of individuality for the prosperity of the national tradition. Certainly individuality has never been tolerated when it happened to contravene-- as genius usually does--cultural and academic standards. In no other country has art been so systematically propagated, so thoroughly professionalized, so powerful an instrument for the preservation of national prestige.
In 1648 the French invented the Academy, and since the foundation of that overwhelming menace, French art has been, in varying degrees, and so far as independent minds will submit to the authority of politicians, a patriotic industry. This official recognition and control has not been without its advantages. It has ensured a high standard of skill and competence, a uniformity of taste, elegance and refinement unmatched in any other modern nation. It has encouraged and supported artists,
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Publication information: Book title: Men of Art. Contributors: Thomas Craven - Author. Publisher: Simon and Schuster. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1931. Page number: 407.
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