The French Artistic Milieu in the 19th and 20th Centuries

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Course Information
Art History
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 

If we generally pay particular attention to specific details of a painting, or the biography of a painter, we often neglect the institutional context in which these details arose. Indeed, artistic creations have always been linked to the kind of society that produced them. This course thus proposes to focus on the structure and function of the world of art in a broader sense, and the evolution of the artistic milieu throughout history. The history of artistic institutions and social artistic practices in France can, in fact, allow us to better understand the major shifts in artistic production, particularly in the 17th century with the introduction of guilds, academia (beginning of classic paintings: Nicolas Poussin, Charles Lebrun), up until the major shifts and tendencies in style after the French Revolution in the 18th century. We will consider neo-classicism (David) and the decline of academic study (Courbet, Manet), with particular emphasis on the major shifts towards Impressionism (Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne…). We will also pay particular attention to new types of artistic study (the creation of academies, workshops, the opening of the Louvre…), the establishment of art dealers, as well as technical and aesthetic innovations in order to understand the effects these movements had on painting as an artistic discipline and the types of works thus created.  This will also allow us to observe, from century to century, the aesthetic and stylistic changes connected to politics, as seen from Louis XVIII to the death of Louis XIV, and from the Regency and the reign of Louis XV and the propagation of the “rocaille” style (Fragonard, Watteau, Boucher), all of which led to a swift return to austerity with neoclassicism, more related to the revolutionary sensibility.

This course is mainly focused on Paris. We will analyze how the cultural and institutional systems allowed for Paris to become the artistic center in Europe, and then globally in the 19th century. The Impressionists will also make up a major part of the coursework; in particular, we will study their role within a new artistic discipline and the novel conception of “the artist.” Finally, and to conclude, we will study the most important cultural and institutional systems that determined artistic creation in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will look in particular at the construction of the ministry of cultural affairs (Andre Malraux, 1959) and its role and mission (up until the present day) in creating support and locations for artistic expression, including FNAC (National Funding for Contemporary Art) and FRAC (Regional Funding for Contemporary Art), The Palais de Tokyo, and others.

Attendance policy: 

Attendance is mandatory. Please note that absences and tardies will prevent you from fully understanding the material of the course and lowers your final grade. In case of illness, please alert your professor and the academics coordinator.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to

  • Understand French culture and the historical context that gave rise to major artistic works and movements.
  • Use specific vocabulary pertaining to art history, which will allow students to express themselves orally and on the page.
  • Analyze art history texts.
Method of presentation: 

Courses will be taught in French, with a focus on lectures based on texts and illustrations. There will also be a booklet of documents for each student, to be given at the beginning of the semester.

Because a variety of art work will form the basis of our study, there will be multiple (mandatory) museum outings to complement coursework (see the list at the end of the document). There are three types of visits: Mandatory visits, which we will do together. Time and place, as well as meeting place, can be found in the syllabus. Open Mandatory Visits are those visits which students may complete on their own time (they are still mandatory!), but which can also be completed during the stated week in the syllabus (there will be a questionnaire to complete in relation to these visits). Finally, there are recommended visits, which are not mandatory but nonetheless provide an interesting complement to coursework.

Field study: 

Mandatory Visits

  • The Louvre
  • Musée d'Orsay
  • Paris under the Second Empire. Ordinary life and la Bohème (Les Batignolles, la plaine Monceau, Montmartre, Musée Jacquemart André)
  • Vernissage at the ENSBA Exposition (celebrated students at the School of Fine Arts)
  • Paul Durand-Ruel Exhibition at the Luxembourg Museum

Mandatory Open Visits (to be completed alone before the specified date)

  • The Louvre (Major formats, neo-classicism)
  • Before the end of the semester:
    • Fondation Paul Ricard 12 rue Boissy D’anglas Paris 8 (Metro Concorde)
    • Fondation Louis Vuitton bois de Boulogne
    • Fondation Cartier for contemporary art  
    • Galeries mode d’emploi (map given at the beginning of the semester)

Recommended Visits

  • Musée Marmottan
  • Musée de l’Oragenrie

Other suggestions:

  • Musée Gustave Moreau 14 rue de La Rochefoucauld Paris 9(Métro Trinité d’Estienne d’Orves. Ligne 12)
  • Musée Rodin 79 rue de Varenne Paris 7 (Métro Varenne)
  • Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris
  • Palais de Tokyo 13 avenue du Pdt Wilson Paris 16 (métro Iéna)
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Research paper - 20%
  • Oral presentation - 10%
  • Mid-term exam - 20%
  • Class participation - 10%
  • Quizzes -  20%
  • Final exam - 20%

Research Paper
8 page paper (2/3 students per subject) with a detailed bibliography on specific subjects decided upon at the beginning of the semester

Oral Presentation
(15 minute) to accompany the research paper

Mid-term Exam
Description of images, questions based on coursework

2 quizzes at the end of each chapter

Session Content Visit Readings and Assignments

General Introduction

Mandatory Visit: Louvre Museum. French Painting, 2nd floor  
2 French painting, 17th and 18th centuries. Classicism, Rocaille, neo-classicism.    

I. Origins of the artistic system in the 19th century

1. Medieval paintings and the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture (created by Lebrun under Louis XIV)

  • Nicolas Poussin
  • Charles Le Brun

Distribution of paper topics/presentations


To read : H. & C. White, « Les origines de la machine artistique du XIXe siècle », La carrière des peintres au XIXe siècle, Flammarion, Paris, 1991, pp. 29-36

All texts can be found on Moodle

(La carrière des peintres au XIXème siècle is in the IES library, if interested)

Assignment : give an oral presentation of the most important parts of this text by relating the major themes in artistic institutions up until the 19th century


2. The triumph of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture and the creation of the Salon

  • The success of the salon, 18th century
  • Changing of the guard, changing of style: the art of life in the 18th century

Art “rocaille” and debauchery Maurice Quentin de La Tour


To read :

  • History of the academy of fine arts, important dates. Documents taken from the official website of the academy of fine arts:
  • Gérard-Georges Lemaire, « Le Salon, unique territoire des arts au XVIIIème siècle », Histoire du Salon de Peinture, Klincksieck études, Paris 2004


Recommended reading:

  • H. & C. White, « Le Salon : le lieu où faire ses preuves », La carrière des peintres au XIXe siècle, op.cit., pp. 46-49. (bibliothèque IES)


Assignment : With the help of the readings (cite your sources if using others than those specified here, and make a note of the library in which you found them), define the Salon and explain its importance within the artistic system in France (1-2 pages to read in class)

Mandatory Visit

The Louvre: neo-classicism (1st floor, Room 75, 77)



Prepare a group presentation (2/3 people) concerning a neo-classical work from the Louvre, and use it to define the neo-classical style (oral presentation with images)


The Revolution of 1789 and new artistic organization

J.-L. David and the art commune

  • Paris / Province
  • 1795 : The French Institute
  • Neo-classicism
  • Jacques-Louis David

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres


To read :

- Gérard Monnier, « La Révolution et l’organisation des arts », Des Beaux-arts aux arts plastiques, ed. La Manufacture, Besançon, 1991, pp. 17-28

Assignment : oral presentation on the most important changes following the Revolution AND oral presentations of neo-classical works from the Louvre


II. Paris, capital of the arts, 19th century

1. The artist after the revolution:

- school of fine arts

- the Rome prize

- prizes and medals


Quiz 1

To read :

Le concours du Prix de Rome.,

7 The school of fine arts and the French Institute

Visits :

  • The French Institute

National School of Fine Arts

  1. 2. The life of a major 19th century artist::
  2. Ingres (neo-classical)

Eugène Delacroix (Romanticism)


To read: Loïs Cassandra Hamrick, « Etre un artiste en 1838 (Avec une lettre inédite d’Eugène Delacroix) », Romantisme, n°54, 1986, pp. 78-88.

9 Eugène Delacroix in situ


  • Eglise St Sulpice

Musée Delacroix

  1. Exposition locations of the 19th century
  • The Salon of the 19th century
  • The birth of the museum
  • The Central Museum of Art (The Louvre): Napoléon & Vivant-Denon
  • Luxembourg Museum (1750) becomes the museum of living artists (1818)

First museums in Europe


To read: Dominique Poulot, « La naissance du musée », Aux armes & aux arts ! Les arts de la révolution 1789-1799, , pp. 202-204, livret, pp. 47-48

Assignment: Who is Vivant Denon (1/2 page to 1 page, with references). Oral presentation.


The Academy in the 19th century and realism (Barbizon, Courbet, Manet)            

Mandatory Visit:

Musée d’Orsay


Paris and the Impressionists: Paris under the Second Empire

-Modern Paris and Haussmann

-Ordinary life, La Bohème

Mandatory Visit: Paris under the Second Empire/ordinary life/La Boheme (the Europe neighborhood, St. Lazare Train Station, Batignolles, Monceau, J. Andre Museum, Montmartre)

  Vernissage: Possibilities of a Fragmented World, Exposition of Celebrated Graduates of The School of Fine Arts, 2014 promotion

Mandatory Visit : Exposition of Celebrated Graduates of the School of Fine Arts,


4. 1863, The “Salon des Refusés”

Edouard Manet painter of modern life


To read :

  • Multiple authors on the Salon des Refusés, 1863, Art in Theory, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, pp. 509-514, livret, pp. 52-57
  • Emile Zola, “Chapitre V”, L’œuvre, publié en 1886, Folio Classique, Paris, 2006

Assignment: Who is Manet? What parts of Manet’s art caused a scandal during his time, and why? (Cite sources)

Written assignment to be sent before the course by email

13 Mid-term exam    

5. Impressionism

1874: First Impressionist exhibition, Boulevard des Capucines, Paris


To read:

  • Louis Leroy, “L’exposition des Impressionnistes”, Charivari, 1874, Art in Theory, op. cit., 2005
  • Jules Antoine Castagnary, “L’exposition boulevard des Capucines”, 1874, Art in Theory, op. cit., 2005
Recommended Visit Exhibition: Impression, soleil levant
The true story of Claude Monet’s Masterpiece
Visit: Monet Marmottan Museum  
15 Painters’ careers: The Impressionists (I/II) : Monet, Renoir, Caillebotte, Morisot, Degas, Cézanne  

To read:

Robert de la Sizeranne, "L'Art à l'Exposition de 1900: Bilan de l'Impressionnisme", Revue des deux mondes, Paris, 1900, vol. 159, p. 628

  Painters’ careers: The Impressionists (I/II) : Monet, Renoir, Caillebotte, Morisot, Degas, Cézanne    
  1. The Increase of Exhibition Locations

a. The Salon of Independants, the Autumn Salon

Women and the Academy


To read:

Lettre de Pauline Orell publiée dans La Citoyenne en février 1880, in Marina Sauer, L’Entrée des femmes à l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts 1880-1923, énsb-a, Paris, 1990, PP. 7-8

Recommended Visit Musée de l’Orangerie  



7. Art buyers and collectors

a. Evaluate the price of one

b. Durand-Ruel, Paul Guillaume

b. The Impressionists and money

Le Père Tanguy, Georges Petit, Amboise Vollard, Paul Guillaume, the Steins, etc.


Have seen the Orangerie if possible

Assignment: Oral Presentation

  • Who is Durand-Ruel ?
  • Who is Paul Guillaume ? (Orangerie visit)
  • Who is le Père Tanguy ?

(include bibliography!)

Mandatory Visit Luxembourg Museum. Paul Durand-Ruel, le pari de l’impressionnisme    

III. Paris and the Artists’ milieu of the 20th century

1. Paris in 1900

a. From Montmartre to Montparnasse

Visit : Montparnasse & art at the beginning of the 20th century  
Recommended Visit Picasso Museum    

b. The Steins and the avant-garde

  • Matisse



Quiz 2 + Quiz on G. Stein (reading)

To read:

Paule Pousseele, « Gertrude Stein. Chronologie », Les Cahiers du GRIF, 1978, vol. 21, n°21-22, pp. 96-102


Make a note of the most important chronological elements, notably G. Stein and the avant-garde in Paris


2. Art during the Fifth Republic (1/2)

  • 1959 : The creation of the ministury of culture (A. Malraux)
  • 1947 : the creation of the national museum of modern art

1976 : the creation of FNAC


To read :

Governmental site on André Malraux

Assignment :

With the help of the reading, André Malraux’s career, who he is, and his important contributions as minister of culture


IV. Present-day institutions

Cultural activity within the museums

Meet with Cyrille Gouyette, cultural mediator at the Louvre

Guest speaker : Cyrille Gouyette, Head of Artistic Education at The Louvre  
21 Meet with Baptiste Coutureau, National Museum of Modern Art (Pompidou)

Guest speaker :

Baptiste Coutureau, Ph.D.,

Centre Pompidou



  • What does it mean to be an artist today
  • Education, career, and places of exhibition

The role of the Academy and current members of the Academy



Students should have gone to at least one vernissage (a datebook as well as a map is provided at the beginning of the semester) AND should have visited at least one landmark of contemporary art (Cartier, Vuitton, Ricard)

Speak about your experience at the vernissage and speak about an artist you saw at the exhibition (ppt)

23 Final Exam    


Required readings: 
  • Art in Theory, Blackwell Publishing, 2005
  • DE LA SIZERANNE, Robert, "L'Art à l'Exposition de 1900: Bilan de l'Impressionnisme", Revue des deux mondes, Paris, 1900, vol. 159, p. 628
  • HAMRICK, Loïs Cassandra, « Etre un artiste en 1838 (Avec une lettre inédite d’Eugène Delacroix) », Romantisme, n°54, 1986
  • LEMAIRE, Gérard-Georges, Histoire du Salon de Peinture, Klincksieck études, Paris 2004
  • MONNIER, Gérard, Des Beaux-arts aux arts plastiques, éd. La Manufacture, Besançon, 1991
  • POULOT, Vincent, Aux armes & aux arts ! Les arts de la révolution 1789-1799, ed. Adam Biro, Paris, 1988
  • POUSSEELE, Paule, « Gertrude Stein. Chronologie », Les Cahiers du GRIF, 1978, vol. 21, n°21-22, pp. 96-102
  • SAUER, Marina, L’Entrée des femmes à l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts 1880-1923, énsb-a, Paris, 1990, PP. 7-8
  • WHITE, H. & C., La carrière des peintres au XIXe siècle, Flammarion, Paris, 1991
  • ZOLA, Emile, L’œuvre, publié en 1886, Folio Classique, Paris, 2006