In the first half of the 19th century, the academic teachings of the official art school in Paris, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, dominated French painting. The Academy’s rigorous training involved a prolonged period of drawing, first from plaster casts of statues and afterwards from life models.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was a particularly talented draughtsman who epitomised the classical, refined style, then in official favour. His portraits involved his subjects in countless sittings. The paintings of Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix, by contrast, exhibit a freedom of brushwork and a use of colour that was innovative at the time.
The precise, linear style of Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg and their compatriots reflects similar concerns in Germany and Denmark, where the mastery of drawing was held of paramount importance.
Adolph Menzel also began his career in the Academy’s plaster cast room, but later adopted a painting style whose freedom of brushwork anticipated that of the Impressionists. He also developed an interest in depicting modern life which sets him apart from the other artists in this room.