Academie Julian
Paris Art School Founded by Rodolphe Julian.

By the River (1887)
Painted by Theodore Robinson.
One of many American painters
who studied painting and drawing
at the Academie Julian in Paris.

Academie Julian (Est. 1868)


What is the Academie Julian?
Why was it So Popular?
Who were the Most Famous Academie Julian Students?
Other Art Schools in Paris

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What is the Academie Julian?

In fine art, the Academie Julian was a progressive art school in Paris, founded in 1868 by Rodolphe Julian (1839-1907), a painter and art administrator. (The French word "Academie" means private art school.) Established in the Passage des Panoramas, it was christened "Academie Julian" in 1873, and rapidly became one of the best art schools of its type. By the 1880s its student body numbered about 600. As the reputation of the school rose, another four branches were opened at No. 28 Boulevard St-Jacques (6th arrondissement), No. 5 Rue de Berri (8th arr), No. 31 Rue du Dragon (6th arr), and No. 51, rue Vivienne (2nd arr). The golden era of the school, when it attracted the most talented students and teachers, was the period 1875-1915. Many graduates from this time went on to become some of the greatest modern artists of the late-19th and early-20th century. Much later, in 1953, the Academie Julian was merged with another Paris school - an art studio founded by the ceramicist Guillaume Met de Penninghen (1912-90) that prepared pupils for entry to the Superior schools of Art, the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs, and the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Appliques et des Metiers d'Art - to form the Ecole Superieure d'Arts Graphiques (commonly ESAG Penninghen).



Why Was the Academie Julian So Popular?

First, throughout the Academie Julian's golden era (1875-1915), Paris was the capital of the art world, and the epicentre of modern art: the place to which all self-respecting artists gravitated to learn about the latest developments in painting (such as Impressionism and Post Impressionism), decorative art of various types, new forms of representational art (expressionism), lithography (poster art) and much more. As a progressive art college in Paris, the Academie Julian benefited enormously from the reputation of its host city.

Second, in the eyes of most serious French students, the Academie Julian was regarded as a stepping stone to the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the leading educational institution of academic art in the country. The Academie prepared students for the entry exams to the Ecole where several of its staff also taught. In addition, Academie students were granted the right to compete for the prestigious Prix de Rome, an annual scholarship awarded to promising young painters, sculptors or printmakers, which enabled them to study art for 3-5 years in Rome. (See also: Best Art Schools in Rome.) The Academie Julian also held its own art competitions, and its students were also encouraged to submit works to the Paris Salon.

Thirdly, unlike the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Academie Julian had no entrance requirements, and was open from 0800 hours to 1800 hours or later. Also, in contrast to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts which (until 1897) refused entry to female art students, the Academie was happy to offer them a full program of education and training in fine art. Women were offered the same classes as men, including the drawing of nude models. In fact, the Academie was one of the few schools to admit women to life-drawing classes. (One of its four new branches was actually exclusively designed for female art students.)

Fourthly, the Academie Julian was especially popular with foreign art students, particularly Americans. This was because while entry to the Academie was free of all restrictions, entry to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts was made extremely difficult for foreigners, who from 1884 were obliged to sit a particularly severe examination in French.

Fifthly, the Academie offered a progressive, liberal training, unlike the conservative teaching regime at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. As a result, young artists (including all the major Impressionist painters) often preferred private art schools, like Academie Julian.

Lastly, a great deal of the success of the Academie Julian was due to the quality of its teaching staff, whose members included famous painters like: Adolphe William Bouguereau (1825-1905), Gustave Boulanger (1824-88), Edgar Chahine (1874-1947), Jean J. Benjamin Constant (1845-1902), Gabriel Ferrier (1847-1914), Jean Paul Laurens (1838-1921), Jules Lefebvre (1836-1911), Tony Robert-Fleury (1837-1912), and Henri Royer (1869-1938).

Who Were the Most Famous Academie Julian Students?

The heyday of the school coincided with the Post-Impressionism movement, thus many of the most celebrated graduates were Post-Impressionist painters, notably the members of Les Nabis, who became famous for their decorative art. The school was especially popular with Americans, and several exponents of American Impressionism studied at the Julian, along with various artists who are best known for their fine art photography. Several important Irish artists also enrolled, as did a number of Expressionist painters from Germany as well as France. The Academie was also popular within the avant-garde art scene in Paris, and attracted many members of the Ecole de Paris, including the Czech poster artist Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) and the French painter-turned-photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004).

Here is a short list of some of the best known artists who studied at the Academie:

American Impressionist Painters
Theodore Robinson (1852-96) Famous for his beautiful landscapes.
John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) Landscapist, with abstract elements.
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) Society portraitist.
Childe Hassam (1859-1935) Noted for urban landscapes.
Robert Henri (1865-1929) Went on to start the Ashcan movement.

Irish Painters
Sarah Purser (1848-1943) Portraitist, stained glass artist.
John Lavery (1856-1941) Impressionist portrait and figurative painter.
Richard Moynan (1856-1906) Famous for his genre paintings.
Dermod O'Brien (1865-1945) Portrait artist and figure painter.
Paul Henry (1876-1958) Landscape artist.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Pioneer Worpswede expressionist.
Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) Symbolist and Expressionist painter.
Emil Nolde (1867-1956) Member of Die Brucke.

American Artists
Diego Rivera (1886-1957) Mexican muralist.
Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) American Scene painter.
Edward Steichen (1879-1973) Achieved fame as a photographer.
Charles Demuth (1883-1935) Exponent of Precisionism.
Grant Wood (1892-1942) Part of the American Scene Painting movement.
Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) Pioneer Pop artist.

Post Impressionists
Paul Serusier (1864-1927) Leader of Les Nabis.
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) Painter, lithographer, designer.
Emile Bernard (1868-1941) Invented Cloisonnism.
Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) Noted for his interior genre paintings.
Max Slevogt (1868-1932) German Impressionist.

Ecole de Paris
Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) Poster artist.
Leon Bakst (1866-1924) Set designer for Diaghilev and Les Ballets Russes.
Henri Matisse (1867-1954) Leader of Fauvism.
Andre Derain (1880-1954) Fauvist painter.
Fernand Leger (1881-1955) Cubist, later noted for his 'Tubism'.
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) Cubist painter, Dadaist, invented ready-mades.
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) Champion of Art Brut.
Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) Painter, photographer.

Jacob Epstein (1880–1959) Modernist figurative sculptor.
Jean Arp (1886-1966) Noted for his biomorphic abstraction.
Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973) Cubist artist.
Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) Long-lived tapestry artist, painter, sculptor.

Other Art Schools in Paris

Ecole des Beaux-Arts
The principal art school in Paris was (and still is) L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, which was made independent of the Academie des Beaux-Arts by Napoleon III, in 1863. The Ecole was split into two parts: the "Academy of Painting and Sculpture" and the "Academy of Architecture". The curriculm of both departments was based on classical principles from Renaissance art, and Roman and Greek architecture. All arts students were required to master basic drawing skills, after which they were allowed to study figure drawing and oil painting. The curriculum culminated in the annual competition for the Grand Prix de Rome, a scholarship to study in Rome for up to five years.

Charles Gleyre's School
In 1843, the Swiss painter Charles Gleyre (1806-74) established his own atelier in the former studio of Paul Delaroche (1797-1856), where he taught a number of young Impressionist painters, several of whom went on to achieve international success. They included: Whistler (1834-1903), Alfred Sisley (1839-99), Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Renoir (1841-1919).

Academie Colarossi
Established by the Italian sculptor Filippo Colarossi, in 1870, as an alternative to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, like the Julian it offered a liberal syllabus and taught female students, who were permitted to draw from the nude male model. Two of its most famous female pupils were Camille Claudel (1864-1943), the French sculptress who became the mistress and muse of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), and the painter Jeanne Hebuterne (1898-1920) who was the muse and common-law wife of Modigliani (1884-1920), and who commited suicide after his death. Admired in particular for its classes in life sculpting, the Academie Colarossi attracted a large number of foreign students. It closed in the 1930s.

Lhote Academy
Founded in Montparnasse in 1922, by the French painter and sculptor Andre Lhote (1885-1962) who also taught at the Academie Notre-Dame des Champs, the Lhote Academy was one of many smaller Parisian art schools, established by talented artists in the early 20th century. Like the Julian and the Colarossi, it was popular above all with foreign pupils.

Ecole Parsons
Founded in 1921, Parsons Paris School of Art and Design - today known as the Paris College of Art (PCA) - was a private school whose educational curriculum (which included applied art and design, as well as fine art) was largely aimed at American art students. It closed during World War II and reopened during the 1970s.

Further Educational Resources

• For courses in London, see: Best Art Schools in London.
• See also: Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
• For antiquarian and secondhand publications, see: Rare Art Books.

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