Published: July 22, 2003
The Dahesh Museum, currently under renovation, will reopen in September 3 with the exhibit “French Artists in Rome: Ingres to Degas, 1803-1873,” on view through November 2.
In 1666, Louis XIV founded the French Academy in Rome in order to provide French artists with an opportunity to study in this great repository of Western civilization. In 1803, the institution moved to the Villa Medici where it is still active today. To commemorate this bicentennial, the Académie de France à Rome has organized a major exhibition about French artists working in the Eternal City from 1803 until 1873.
The museum proud to present a major selection from this exhibition in order to celebrate the opening of its new home. The exhibition contains some 120 major paintings, sculptures and drawings by artists such as Ingres, David d’Angers, Corot, Granet, Vernet, Carpeaux, Cabanel, Navez, Géricault, Moreau, Degas, and many more.
As a museum dedicated to Nineteenth Century academic art, there could hardly be a more appropriate exhibition than this one, which investigates the important rite of passage that generations of French artists experienced by living and working in Rome. After students at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris won the prestigious Prix de Rome competition, they were awarded a residency of up to five years at the Villa Medici, paid for by the French government. This Roman sojourn was supposed to immerse the artist in the great heritage of Ancient and Renaissance masters and intended to nurture the future generations that would continue this revered tradition.
Rome had already inspired artists for centuries. It was traditionally a place of formation as well as a point of departure for many an artistic career. In order to better understand the French Academy’s role within the artistic milieu in 19th-century France, the exhibition not only examines the unifying links between pensionnaires (the resident student artists) and directors at the Villa Medici, but also explores contacts with visiting artists, as well as with those who had chosen Rome as their primary residence.
A communal spirit was not only fostered by the evening academy drawing sessions that were introduced by Ingres, but also by excursions into the countryside in order to paint from nature. The exhibition further demonstrates how the French Academy, despite its strict rules and regulations, allowed for a great variety in artistic creation. The works on display show a stylistic evolution from Ingres’ academism of the 1840s towards the eclecticism of the 1860s and beyond.
An extensive French language catalogue, edited by Olivier Bonfait, under the title Maesta di Roma. D’Ingres à Degas. Les artistes français à Rome (Electa, Milan, 2003), will be available for sale. This 616-page catalogue of the original show in Rome contains several introductory articles as well as scholarly entries on each work of art, and is fully illustrated.
There will also be an English language handbook for the New York version of the exhibition.
The museum, at 580 Madison Avenue, may be reached in September at 212-759-0606, or anytime at www.daheshmuseum.org.
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