Academic Classicism, also known as the Art Academies, originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century and became popular in England, France, and Russia in the 17th and 8th centuries. Among them, the French academic school had the most significant influence due to the government's special attention, so most of the literary trends after the Renaissance originated from France. The most prominent artists of Academic Classicism are William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Alexandre Cabanel, Thomas Couture, and Jacques Louis David.
Academic Classicism first influenced literature and music and later spread to painting, sculpture, architecture, and other fields and became a common artistic trend in European literature and art. At that time, France was under the reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV, with developed commerce, economic prosperity, and flourishing social development. The monarchy entered its heyday, and a new aristocratic group headed by the king and the big bourgeoisie was formed. In this historical context, an artistic trend called "Classicism" was created to serve the king's power.
During the Middle Ages, French literature and arts drew on religious inspiration. Christianity provided the primary carrier of consciousness for architecture and painting. The painted decorative paintings of churches retold the Bible's stories, and illustrations endlessly emerged in religious books. A variety of literary forms were also derived from Christian culture. Epic and chivalric literature celebrated the ideals of loyalty, patriotism, and religious love. In the late 15th and 16th centuries, European humanists and painters criticized the medi theological ideal of art and revived the ancient Greek doctrine of artistic imitation of nature. In order to celebrate the beautiful secular life, French painters such as Jean Fouquet and Jean Clouet often created portraits based on real-life figures. In the works of the School of Fontainebleau and Italian painters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Titian, the naked human body and female breasts were no longer symbols of original sin and corruption but became objects of appreciation. The erotic atmosphere and mythological inspiration are also reflected in poetry. Hedonism and humanism in literature and painting objectively promoted the liberation of individuality and anti-feudal bondage.
Academic Classicism attached importance to the role of sketching in painting, relying on rigorous sketching skills to create a complete shape, preferring a simple and solemn picture form in composition, pursuing a magnificent momentum and a grim and quiet artistic tone. Classicism did not pay so much attention to the role of color and sometimes deprived the artistic image of its natural color for the sake of necessity. The subjects chosen were major events in history and reality, emphasizing spiritual connotations. In terms of artistic form, the emphasis was on rational rather than sensual expression.
Neoclassicism is a continuation and deepening of Classicism. They have many similarities in their artistic pursuits, both pursuing the principle of the supremacy of rationality, using art to serve the upper class, excluding individuality and showing commonality, and respecting the art form of ancient Greece. They weaken the role of color and brushstrokes and strive for perfection in the form of composition.
Neoclassicism differs from Classicism in the use of color. Neoclassicism emphasized the artistic principle of "convey the spirit by the form," and in order to create an aesthetic interest of beauty and harmony, majesty, and elegance, it did not deny the artistic role of color. It weakened the color to a certain extent and tried to retain the natural color of the objects. Drawing on the artistic techniques of ancient Greece was just a means to express real life, to show the significant events and heroic images of the French Revolution. Neoclassicism preferred serious subjects more than Classicism.