Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cummer Celebrates Art Style out of Favor for Much of 20th Century; "Academic Splendor" Recalls Controversy of 19th-Century Academic Painting

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cummer Celebrates Art Style out of Favor for Much of 20th Century; "Academic Splendor" Recalls Controversy of 19th-Century Academic Painting

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

In 2011, as it prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens surveyed its visitors and asked them to choose 50 favorites from almost 5,000 works of art.

Two works by French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau were chosen: "Return from the Harvest," an 1878 oil on canvas, and "Day Dreams," a 1904 oil on canvas.

If someone had surveyed the art world in 1860, there would have been wide agreement that Bouguereau (1825-1905) was a giant. A similar survey in 1960 would have found Bouguereau had been almost forgotten.

Trained at the government sponsored Academie des Beaux-Arts, Bouguereau was one of the masters of 19th-century academic painting. Not surprisingly, his 1903 painting "By the Sea" is included in "Academic Splendor: Nineteenth-Century Masterworks from the Dahesh Museum of Art."

The Dahesh Museum of Art, located in New York, is the only institution in the United States devoted to collecting and exhibiting European academic art of the 19th century. The exhibit features paintings and sculptures by creative artists trained in the academies and private ateliers of France and other countries, including Jean-Leon Gerome, Gustave Dore, and Antoine-Louis Baye.

The academy trained painters of the mid-19th century were influenced by romanticism and neo-classicism. Nudity was okay if used in a painting depicting subjects that were mythological or allegorical, said Nelda Damiano, the Cummer's associate curator. Paintings depicting history and religion were considered "more noble than landscapes."

The annual Paris Salon, sponsored by the French government, was crucial to the economic success of a mid-19th century artist. Medal winners were given official commissions by the French government, and were sought after for portraits and private commissions. And through the early 1860s the salon was restricted almost exclusively to the academy trained artists like Bouguereau.

But by the early 1860s the academic style was under attack from both realists, who felt academic artists were creating images that were too smooth and idealized and by impressionists, who preferred creating spontaneous images of what they saw to the laborious process academic artists used, beginning with sketches and studies as they worked to perfect their images. …

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