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Places, Schools, Movements (Part I)

When discussing the history of painting in Canada (or even art in general), one cannot ignore the places, institutions, movements, and artists from other countries that have had a significant influence on global art. Most good texts on the history of painting reference these elements, so it's worth reviewing them briefly. In this blog, we'll divide this into two parts: the first will cover some places and institutions that left their mark on art in the 19th and 20th centuries, while the second will focus on certain styles and movements that shaped the evolution of painting in Canada.


Barbi what? you might ask. No, Barbizon is not an old bearded man painting late at night. It's a small village in France that became legendary for pre-impressionist painting. Since 1820, painters have been seeking inspiration in the preserved nature of Barbizon. Barbizon was an important artistic movement in France in the 19th century and had a significant influence on the history of painting. The artists of the Barbizon school chose to paint ‘’en plein air’’ in the forest of Fontainebleau, near the village of Barbizon. This innovative approach, called painting on location, radically changed the way artists depicted nature. The artists of Barbizon sought to capture the beauty and truth of nature in a realistic way, studying the effects of light, atmosphere, and color on their subject live. In short, they were a bit like the hippies of art at the time. The realistic style of Barbizon was characterized by the use of dark, earthy colors, with particular attention paid to subtle variations of light and shadow in nature.

Auberge Ganne, Barbizon

Among the artists of the Barbizon movement are Camille Corot, Théodore Rousseau, Jean-François Millet, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña, and Charles-François Daubigny, among others. Their work had a major influence on the development of modern art in general. This influence spread beyond France and had a significant impact on the development of landscape art worldwide. Canadian artists such as Horatio Walker, Curtis Williamson, and Homer Watson were influenced by the techniques and approaches of Barbizon in their quest to capture the changing effects of light and atmosphere in their own works.

Théodore Rousseau painting, paysage avec un charretier 
 Horatio Walker painting, Labour aux premières lueurs du jour - Oil on canvas, 1900
The Hague

Another city, this time in the Netherlands, had a huge influence on painting throughout history. Famous for its rich artistic heritage and contributions to various artistic movements, The Hague was a center of artistic innovation, creativity, and cultural exchange.

Photo of Horse tram in the Hague, 1902

One of the most striking ways in which The Hague influenced painting was through the famous artistic tradition known as the Hague School. The Hague School, which emerged in the 19th century, was an artistic movement that focused on Realism. Artists associated with the Hague School sought to capture the landscape and everyday life with realism and emotional depth.

The artists of the Hague School often painted scenes of the countryside (Windmills and the fabulous Dutch cow), dunes, seascapes and fishing villages, depicting the changing light, weather and atmosphere with talent and sensitivity. Painters such as Anton Mauve, Jacob Maris and Hendrik Willem Mesdag to name a few, were known for their use of sober colors, loose brushstrokes and attention to detail, which conveyed a sense of intimacy and authenticity in their works.


Anton Mauve, Shepherdess with a flock of sheep

École des Beaux-Arts de Paris (France)

The École des Beaux-Arts de Paris, also known as the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA), is one of the most prestigious art education institutions in France. Founded in 1648, it is located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district of Paris and is attached to the Ministry of Culture. It is one of the oldest art schools in the world, having trained many famous artists, such as Eugène Delacroix, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso as well as many international artists, playing a major role in the training of academic artists of the 19th century. Several Canadian painters studied at this school, including Marc-Aurel de Foy Suzor-Coté, Maurice Cullen, Alfred Pellan, Paul Peel, Henri Beau, and many others.

Maurice Cullen painting, Vieilles maisons à Montréal - Oil on canvas

Julian Academy (France)

The ‘’Académie Julian’’ was a private art school located in Paris, founded in 1867 by the French artist Rodolphe Julian. The school was renowned for its training in visual arts and attracted students from all over the world. The academy offered courses in drawing, painting and sculpture, as well as courses in art history and artistic techniques. Julian Academy was famous for its progressive approach to teaching art, encouraging students to develop their own style rather than simply replicating traditional techniques. Renowned artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard and Henri Matisse all studied at the Académie Julian.

The academy was open to both male and female students, which was rare for the time. Women artists were particularly well represented and several great names in women's art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries studied there. Many well-known Canadian painters such as William Brymner, Florence Carlyle, Clarence Gagnon, Alexander Young Jackson and James Wilson Morrice also studied at the academy.

James Wilson Morrice painting, pêcheurs du dimanche, 1910 - Oil on canvas layed on cardboard

Art Students League of New York (United States)

Founded in 1875 the Art Students League of New York is considered one of the most prestigious institutions for art education in the United States.

The school focuses on traditional art learning, emphasizing basic techniques and skills, while encouraging self-expression and experimentation.

The Art Students League has welcomed a large number of famous artists among its students and teachers, who have influenced American art in significant ways. For example, Georgia O'Keeffe and Jackson Pollock who were pioneers of American modern art. 

Over the years, its tradition of encouraging creativity and experimentation influenced the development of artistic movements such as abstract expressionism as well as the individual styles of many artists. Canadian artists who have attended the school include: Edmund Morris, Philip Surrey, Jack Shadbolt, William Goodridge Roberts, André Charles Biéler and David Milne.

William Goodridge Roberts, Still life - Oil on panel

Colarossi Academy (France)

The Académie Colarossi was a private art school located in Paris, France. It was founded in 1870 by the Italian sculptor Filippo Colarossi.

This institution was a less formal alternative to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and was highly prized by artists seeking to develop their technique and personal style. It was also one of the few places where women artists could study alongside men, making it a popular destination for international women artists.

Many famous artists attended this school, including painters Paul Gauguin, Camille Claudel and Édouard Vuillard.

The Colarossi Academy offered artists greater freedom of expression and artistic experimentation than the more traditional art schools of that time, thus contributing to the emergence of new artistic currents such as Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Many famous Canadian painters have studied at the Académie Colarossi throughout its history, including Marc-Aurel de Foy Suzor-Coté, Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith, Prudence Heward, Jean-Paul Lemieux and many others. These artists were all influenced by the teachings and artistic community of the Colarossi Academy, and helped shape modern Canadian art.

Prudence Heward, Jeune Femme assise - Oil on canvas 


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