press release

A French dream
From the Academy to the Salons, the 19th Century Fine Arts in Paris
30.01.2018 - 06.05.2018

National Art Museum of China East Side
16 Dongchang'an Jie Dongcheng District
Tian'anmen Square (Gallery S8)

The Centre national des arts plastiques (Cnap) and the Beaux-Arts de Paris present for the first time an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing, on the initiative of the French Embassy in China. Entitled A French dream, this exhibition focuses on the artworks created in France during the period from the French Revolution to the First World War, with Paris at its center.

A French dream
This exhibition will offer visitors the chance to discover masterpieces from the collections of the Cnap and the Beaux-Arts de Paris, produced by artists from France and elsewhere, including several Chinese artists who studied at the Beaux-Arts de Paris.

The collections of the two institutions make it possible to follow the way the artists were trained before showing their work at the Salons, or having it purchased by the State.

The works bear the signatures of great names such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Camille Corot, Eugène Delacroix, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Alexandre Cabanel, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Chang Shuhong and Fang Junbi. Some artists received the highest distinctions of the time such as the Grand Prix de Rome, awarded to Jean-Alexandre Falguière, Jules-Eugène Lenepveu and André Devambez for sculpture and painting.

Works by François Rude, the creator of the bas-relief of La Marseillaise, on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, are presented beside three oil paintings by Ingres, including the iconic Jupiter et Thétis (1811). This exhibition also casts light on another area of French culture through great literary figures such as Victor Hugo and Rabelais, portrayed in four works by Henri Gervex, Aimé-Jules Dalou, Ernest-Philippe Boetzel and Eugène Delacroix.

The works on show also constitute an overview of the influence of the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris. Some artists such as Achille-Etna Michallon, Edgard Maxence, Georges Rouault and Paul Landowski taught students from all over the world including many Chinese artists such as Hua Tianyou, Liu Kaiqu, Wang Linyi and Fang Junbi whose Joueuse de flûte (The Flute Player) (1924), shown at the Salon, met with huge public success in China.

In their own way, the Salons and Universal Exhibitions in Paris played the same role as did the School, welcoming visitors and artists of all nationalities. They enabled various different artistic trends and movements such as Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism to spread internationally. The diversity of works presented in the exhibition demonstrates the State’s efforts to record, from that time forward, the variety of artistic creation in France and abroad, from Classicism to Avant-garde. Under the entity of the Bureau des travaux d’art, whose successor today is the Cnap, it increasingly purchased works by Chinese artists established in France—a testimony to the State’s interest in their presence at the Beaux-Arts de Paris in the interwar period. Among them, Fang Junbi together with Chang Shuhong and his Malade fiévreuse (Feverishly sick) (1931) will be shown for the first time at the National Museum of China.

The exhibition is organised by the National Museum of China, the Centre national des arts plastiques, and the Beaux-arts de Paris, on the initiative of the French Embassy in China. Dating back to the French Revolution, the Cnap was founded at a time when the seeds of a shared heritage were first sown and the Republic was being formed. Its acquisition policy, supported by professional expertise, has been eclectic ever since, geared towards emerging trends and forward-looking to keep the contemporary art scene alive.