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A PROBLEMATIC ATTRACTION: FRENCH ARTISTS AND THE PRIMITIVE AT THE FRENCH ACADEMY IN ROME

 

Kathleen McLauchlan

 

 

From the start of the nineteenth century French artists had sought inspiration in the early Renaissance period – its art, literature and history. Their motivations included nostalgia for the past, the prospect of fresh and dramatic subject matter, and a desire to purify French art. As a young painter, Ingres was among those enthused by a period broadly described as ‘gothic’ or ‘primitive’ by contemporary commentators. Yet a resurgence of these interests among students at the Academy in Rome during the early 1830s would be problematic. This paper traces the development of the goût primitif in France and the challenges it presented for the Academy of Fine Arts.