School of Fine Arts, Paris
Ecole des Beaux-Arts, France: History, Courses, Admissions, Tuition Fees.

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Ecole des Beaux Arts
School of Fine Arts (Paris)


Origins and History
Conservative Teaching Methods
Art Courses
American Exchange Programs
Contact Information

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The term Ecole des Beaux Arts (School of Fine Arts) applies to a number of the best art schools in France (eg. those of Dijon, Nancy, Bourges, Lyon among others), the most famous of which is the School of Fine Arts in Paris, an institution now known as the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris which is situated close to the Louvre Museum. This was the original French school of fine art, and should be clearly differentiated from the Museum of Fine Arts (Musee des Beaux Arts) and the Academy of Fine Arts (Academie des Beaux Arts). The school has a prestigious tradition and demands particularly high standards of academic and practical achievements, both for entry and graduation.



Origins & History

The Ecole des Beaux Arts was established in 1648 - as part of the French Academy of Fine Arts - by the powerful Cardinal Mazarin in order to train exceptional students in life drawing, painting, sculpture, engraving and architecture.

Fine art instruction had long been a tradition in Europe, ever since the Middle Ages when Master painters passed their artistic knowledge onto apprentices. The Ecole des Beaux Arts was considered revolutionary in its time for imitating the courses and training offered by the great Italian academies like the Florentine Academy of the Art of Design (Accademia dell'Arte del Disegno, later renamed Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze) and the Academy of St Luke in Rome (Accademia di San Luca). The first class was given in public on the 1st of February 1648 by painter Charles Le Brun (1619-1690). The original timetable ran from April to October, when daylight hours were best. In 1663 the school inaugurated the prestigious Prix de Rome, a scholarship award for students of painting, sculpture and architecture. Designed to create a taste for classical art in students, its trials lasted 3 months and were highly competitive. Famous winners of the prize included the rococo painter Francois Boucher (1720), the neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David (1774) and the traditionalist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1801). Painters who tried but failed to win the Prix de Rome include Impressionists Edouard Manet (1832–83) and Edgar Degas (1834–1917). Another who tried and failed was Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904) - famous for his orientalist painting and populist historical works - who eventually secured a coveted professorship at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

World famous graduates of the school's Architecture department include the Americans Richard Morris Hunt (1827-95) and Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-86).

Conservative Teaching Methods

The curriculum of the school was divided into the 'Academy of Painting and Sculpture' and the 'Academy of Architecture'. Both schools promoted conservative classical arts and architectural design based on the antique canons formulated in ancient Rome and Greece. As in the Italian academies of the 16th century, all students at the Ecole des Beaux Arts were obliged to perfect their drawing skills before progressing to figure drawing and eventually painting. By the late 19th century and early 20th century - with the advent of modern art movements like Impressionism, Expressionism, Fauvism and Cubism - the school was seen as far too rigid in its aesthetics. (It continued to adhere to strict rules of painting concerning (inter alia) subject matter, use of colour, figurative poses etc.) Rival schools of French painting sprang up around Paris including the Academie Colarossi and the Academie Julian, for whom the Ecole Des Beaux Arts remained the basic teaching model, at least until the Bauhaus Design School was established in 1919. Today, however, the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts enjoys a wider, more flexible curriculum, and employs much more modern teaching methods.


Art Courses

Most degree courses at the Beaux Arts last 5 years. Practical courses are offered in painting, sculpture, modeling, casting, fresco painting, engraving, stained glass, photography, silk-screening, lithography, morphology, photography, digital imaging, and architecture. Academic subjects include the history of art, critical theories of art, psychology of art therapy, aesthetics, film and literature. A 2-year course known as the Seine program is offered by the school to French and international students to help them develop their artistic sensibilities through criticism, research and experimental works.


Admission to the Ecole des Beaux Arts is only considered for students who hold a Baccalaureate (or degree equivalent) and are aged between 18 and 24 years of age. Students applying for entry into the second year may be aged up to 26. Foreign students are accepted but a good knowledge of French is required. This will be tested by a jury during the admission interview. Also all educational documents will need to be translated and certified into French. Registrations are usually accepted in February with interviews occurring in March/April. Tuition fees on application, or see website.

American Exchange Programs

A number of American colleges have exchange programs with the Parisian Ecole des Beaux Arts, including:

- Hunter College
- New York School of Visual Arts
- Cooper Union
See: Best New York Art Schools.

- CalArts
- Otis College
- San Francisco Art Institute
- Pasadena College of Design
See: Best Art Schools in California.

- School of the Art Institute, Chicago
- Columbia College Chicago
See: Best Art Schools in Illinois.

- School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
See: Best Art Schools in Massachusetts.

- Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
See: Best Art Schools in Pennsylvania.

- Institute of Art & Design, Milwaukee
See: Best Art Schools in Wisconsin.

Notable Alumni of the Beaux Arts

In addition to Boucher, Ingres, Manet and Degas, celebrated artists who have studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts include: the rococo artist Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806), the realist portrait and history painter Theodore Gericault (1791–1824), the great Romantic painter Delacroix (1798–1863), the landscape painter Jean-Francois Millet (1814–75), the symbolist Gustave Moreau (1826–98), the Impressionists Alfred Sisley (1839–99), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), and Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), and the Post-Impressionist Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). Curiously, the hugely influential French 19th century sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) failed on three occasions to gain admittance to the school.

Art Collection

The Ecole des Beaux-Arts holds one of the finest collections of paintings, sketches, architectural drawings and documents from former students of the school. Within the collection are 200 paintings from Prix de Rome contestants.

Contact Information

Address: Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts,
14 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Phone: +33-1-4703-5000

• For more about art education, see: Visual Arts Encyclopedia.

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