This rich overview of masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts-the original school of fine arts in Paris and a repository for work by Europe's most renowned artists since the fifteenth century-includes approximately 140 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, dating from the 17th through late 19th centuries with a few examples dating back 2000 years and some from the 15th and 16th century European Renaissance. These works of art explore heroic themes such as courage, sacrifice, and death, and the exhibition examines the ways that changing political and philosophical systems affected the choice and execution of these subjects. The exhibition is filled with powerful works of art that 50 years ago (as the art world embraced modernism and abstraction) would have been relegated to an embarrassing footnote in the history of art. These paintings were exactly what inspired Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, and many others to look in an entirely different direction for the sources of their images, and drove them to develop spontaneous, expressive brushwork. Visitors will experience masterful drawings of the human figure which were made all the more lifelike through a rigorous study of anatomy, both human, and animal. Roman marble sculptures, drawings and prints by Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, and Rembrandt van Rijn among many others were carefully studied by students at the École, and will be on view at this exhibition as well.
At the École, subjects assigned for student projects and competitions were usually pulled from the mythology of Ancient Greece and Rome and the bible. From these sketchy stories, the artists developed complex, emotional pageants of human drama often featuring larger-than-life characters that are completely unknown today. The epic deeds of gods and heroes, enshrined in the Bible and the works of Homer, were the primary narratives from which both aspiring and established academicians drew their inspiration. At the École, learning how to construct persuasive and powerful paintings from carefully delineated anatomy, expressive faces, and convincing architectural and landscape settings was understood by aspiring artists to be the route to success and recognition.
This exhibition is generously supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities with additional touring support from the JFM Foundation and the Donald and Maria Cox Trust. Funding for the catalogue is provided by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. In-kind support is provided by Barbara and Richard S. Lane and Christie's.
The Museum is proud to be offering the following programs based around the Gods and Heroes exhibition:
Public Opening: Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris
Saturday, October 11
2 - 5 p.m.
Learn about the École