From October 21, 2011 to January 2, 2012 – National Gallery of Canada

In the 18th century, Rome was the principal crossroads for the European community and an important source of influence for French artists who rose to prominence in the Eternal City.

This exhibition highlights the flowering of French art in 18th-century Rome, focusing on some 100 works, of which many are travelling to North America for the first time.

Visitors will have the opportunity to view an exceptional selection of drawings and prints as well as a number of paintings by many important French artists of the period, including Hubert Robert, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Jacques-Louis David.

The Académie de France in Rome, founded in 1666, provided training for the most talented students from the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in Paris, for a period of about four years. This group of artists comprised the dozen recipients of the Grand Prix de Rome, awarded for excellence in painting, sculpture and architecture.

The students made copies of antiquities in public squares, gardens and the Capitoline Museum, and they visited the churches and palazzos of Rome to study Renaissance and Baroque masters. The Académie also offered a live model class, open to these pensionnaires (as they were called), external students and foreigners. Although the nude study was part of the curriculum, many of the resulting paintings of academy figures were of exceptional quality. Students’ work was regularly dispatched to the king of France to attest to their progress.

A number of French artists went on to successful careers in Rome or submitted proposals for major Roman projects. The length of time that both pensionnaires and independent artists spent in Rome varied depending on their financial resources and patron support.

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