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June 13 – September 13, 2015

Photographer Unknown, Studio of Gustave Moreau at the École des Beaux-Arts, ca. 1892-98

Photographer Unknown, Studio of Gustave Moreau at the École des Beaux-Arts, ca. 1892-98, Albumen print, 6 13/16 x 9 in., École des Beaux-Arts, Paris (Ph 8693), Courtesy American Federation of Arts.

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 seventeenth century—includes approximately 140 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper dating from antiquity through the nineteenth century.

The exhibition focuses on epic themes such as courage, sacrifice, and death, as well as the ways that changing political and philosophical systems affected the choice and execution of these subjects. Among the featured works are paintings by Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Anne-Louis Girodet, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres; sculpture by Antoine-Louis Barye, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Jean-Antoine Houdon, and François Rude; and drawings by Simon Vouet, Antoine-Jean Gros, and Théodore Géricault.

Gods and Heroes offers unique insight into the development of an aesthetic ideology that fostered some of western art’s most magnificent achievements. 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 to be the route to success and recognition. The ideology was rooted in the study of the idealized human form as envisioned in classical art. The exhibition features extraordinary works that served as models for the students, including ancient sculpture, a drawing by Raphael, and prints by Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt van Rijn.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue with a major essay by Guest Curator Emmanuel Schwartz, Conservateur du patrimoine/Research Curator at the École des Beaux-Arts, as well as several other major contributions.