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A French term for a private art school, several of which flourished in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term atelier libre has also been used to refer to such establishments. Entry to the official École des Beaux-Arts was difficult (almost impossible for foreigners, who from 1884 had to take a vicious examination in French) and teaching there was conservative, so private art schools, with their more liberal regimes, were often frequented by progressive young artists. Four of them are particularly well known. The Académie Carrière was opened in 1890 by Eugène Carrière (1849–1906), a painter of portraits, religious pictures, and—his speciality—scenes of motherhood. His style was misty, monochromatic, and vaguely Symbolist. Rodin was a great admirer of his work. There was no regular teaching at the school, although Carrière visited it once a week. It was here that Matisse met Derain, thus helping to form the nucleus of the future Fauves. The Académie Julian was founded in 1873 by Rodolphe Julian (1839–1907), whose work as a painter is now forgotten. The school had no entrance requirements, was open from 8 a.m. until nightfall, and was soon the most popular establishment of its type. Julian opened several branches throughout Paris, one of them for women artists, and by the 1880s the student population was about 600. Although the Académie Julian became famous for the unruly behaviour of its students, it was regarded as a stepping stone to the École des Beaux-Arts (Julian had been astute in engaging teachers from the École as visiting professors). Among the French artists who studied there were Bonnard, Denis, Matisse, and Vuillard. The list of distinguished foreign students is very long. The Académie Ranson was founded in 1908 by Paul Ranson (1864–1909), who had studied at the Académie Julian. After Ranson's early death, his wife took over as director, and his friends Denis and Sérusier were among the teachers. Among later teachers the most important was Roger Bissière, whose style of expressive abstraction influenced many young painters in the 1930s; his pupils included Manessier. The Académie Suisse was founded in about 1850 by a former artists' model called Suisse ‘in an old and sordid building where a well-known dentist pulled teeth at one franc apiece…artists could for a small fee work from the living model without any examinations or tuition’ (John Rewald, The History of Impressionism). Courbet, Manet, and several of the Impressionists drew at the Académie Suisse, and it was there in 1861 that Camille Pissarro first noticed the ‘strange Provençal’ Paul Cézanne, whose life drawings were ridiculed by his fellow students.

Subjects: Art.

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