Conferences 2016

Alain Bonnet (Professor of Contemporary Art History, University of Grenoble-Alpes Laboratory of Historical Research Rhône-Alpes – LARHRA – UMR 5190)


 In 1966, Jean-Paul Crespelle, a chronicler of Montmartre, published by Hachette a work entitled Les Maîtres de la Belle Epoque (The Masters of the Belle Epoque). This book, lavishly illustrated with long forgotten pictures, did not intend to revalue the so-called pompiers painters, but to review the uniformly negative opinion which had discredited the artists who exhibited at the Salon in the second half of the 19th century. The contempt addressed to their production, regarded as the expression of bourgeois bad taste, condemned it to destruction or invisibility for more than half a century. The opening of the Musée d’Orsay in 1986 should confirm the new interest of art historians in this “damned part” of 19th century art. However, the controversies that surrounded the opening of the new museum confirmed how provocative still was the idea of exposing in the same place Bouguereau and Manet, Renoir and Cabanel, Meissonier and Cézanne.

In our conference, we will address the career of these official artists closely linked to art institutions managed by the State: the Ecole des beaux-arts and the Prix de Rome, the Salon, the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the artistic societies… Analyzing some characteristic examples, we will present the cursus studiorum of the “chers maîtres” who exposed huge paintings in the Salon, received medals and pensions from diverse European governments, and were highly respected and admired by the public. We will propose a classification of their production within the categories of official painting, opposing it to the independent painting of the Impressionists and to the avant-gardes that marked the stylistic evolution of 20th century art. We will also discuss the social image of the official artists based on series of portraits, self-portraits, and group portraits. Finally, we will return to historiographical questions, i. e., to the process of rediscovery of this artistic production in the 1980s, the opposition to its critical reassessment, and the current state of 19th century art historiography.


Sonia Gomes Pereira (UFRJ).

Recent Studies on the Academy of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro: historiographical revision.

Keywords: Academy of Fine Arts, Rio de Janeiro, historiography.

During the last three decades in Brazil, following the general movement towards a historiographical revision of the 19th  century art, many researches about the Academy has been made. Thus, in 2016, when our Academy of Fine Arts commemorates its 200th anniversary, we reach the point of having a general view of the ensemble of these studies. Four main focuses of research can be distinguished: reinterpretations of the academic teaching, both theoretical and practical; the construction of an artistic territory, after the colonial times; the participation at the construction of the nation’s image; and the formation of the institution’s collections.

All these questions are substantial for the understanding, not only the Academic universe, but also the Brazilian art in general, expanding itself through the Modernist period. They indicate as well, some structural features of the Brazilian culture about its own definition.