French term meaning school of fine arts
The original Ecole des Beaux Arts emerged from the teaching function of the French Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, established in Paris in 1648 (see academy). In 1816 the Académie Royale school moved to a separate building and in 1863 was renamed the Ecole des Beaux Arts.
The basis of the teaching was the art of ancient Greece and Rome, that is, classical art. But anatomy, geometry, perspective and study from the nude were also part of the curriculum. In 1663 the Académie founded the Prix de Rome, a hugely prestigious prize that gave winners a prolonged visit to Rome to study classical art on the spot. In 1666 the Académie also founded a branch in Rome to provide teaching and a base for these students. Subsequently most major French cities established their own Ecole des Beaux Arts. The Prix de Rome was abolished in 1968 as a result of the student revolt of that year.
By the end of the nineteenth century the Ecole des Beaux Arts had become deeply conservative. This led to independent rival schools springing up in Paris, such as the Académie Julian and the Académie Colarossi. The Ecole remained the basic model for an art school until the foundation of the Bauhaus in 1919. (See also Black Mountain College.) Most of the illustrious names in French art passed through the Ecole up to and including some of the young impressionists.