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"Academic art" refers to the tradition of drawing, painting, and sculpture taught at the academies, or art schools, of Europe. First established in Renaissance Italy, academies flourished in the 19th century and prescribed strict guidelines for the production of works of art. This organized training system ensured that artists possessed a high level of technical ability and familiarity with the lofty themes of the Western tradition. Nearly every city in Europe, and, later, the United States, Australia, and Latin America developed an art academy that set similarly high standards.
The most important academy of the modern period, and the one upon which many others modeled their own systems of promotion, patronage, display and teaching, was the French Academy, founded in 1648. During most of the 19th century, this powerful institution oversaw the premier art school in Paris, the École des Beaux-Arts, and controlled the official exhibitions known as Salons. It established a strict hierarchy for valuing subject matter, with history paintings at the pinnacle, and also awarded the most prestigious honor a French art student could receive, the prix de Rome.
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