Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2014-2015)

Through approximately 140 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, this exhibition provides a rich overview of masterpieces drawn from the École des Beaux-Arts, the original school of fine arts in Paris and a repository for work by Europe’s most renowned artists since the seventeenth century.

This rich overview of masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts—the original school of fine arts in Paris and a repository for work by Europe’s most renowned artists since the seventeenth century—includes over 140 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper dating from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. The focus is on epic themes such as courage, sacrifice, and death, as well as the ways that changing political and philosophical systems affected the choice and execution of these subjects. Among the featured works are paintings by Jacques Louis David, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Anne-Louis Girodet, and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres; sculpture by Antoine Louis Barye, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Jean-Antoine Houdon, and Francois Rude; drawings by François Boucher, Leonardo da Vinci, Nicolas Poussin, Titian, and Jean Antoine Watteau; and prints by Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt van Rijn.

The epic deeds of gods and heroes, enshrined in the Bible and the works of Homer, were the primary narratives from which both aspiring and established academicians drew their inspiration. Their ideology was rooted in the study of the idealized human form as envisioned in classical art. At the École, learning how to construct persuasive and powerful paintings from carefully delineated anatomy, expressive faces, and convincing architectural and landscape settings was understood by aspiring artists to be the route to success and recognition.

Gods and Heroes offers unique insight into the development of an aesthetic ideology that fostered some of western art’s most magnificent achievements. Among the masterworks included are Charles-Joseph Natoire’s Sacrifice of Manoah (1721); Joseph-Marie Vien’s David Resigns himself to the will of the Lord, who struck his kingdom of the plague (1743); Jacques-Louis David’s Erasistratus Discovers the Cause of Antiochus’s Disease (1774); and Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres’s Achilles Receiving the Ambassadors of Agamemnon (1801).



Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, OK
June 19–September 14, 2014
Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Albuquerque, NM
October 12, 2014–January 4, 2015
Artis—Naples, The Baker Museum, Naples, FL
February 21–May 17, 2015
Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR
June 13–September 13, 2015


Emmanuel Schwartz has been Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts since 1996 and has written extensively on the history of its buildings and collections. Among his recent exhibitions are L’École de la liberté: Être Artiste À Paris, 1648 – 1817 (2009) and The Legacy of Homer: Four Centuries of Art from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2005). He is also the author of Les Sculptures de l’École des Beaux-Arts de Paris — Histoire, Doctrine, Catalogue (2003).


The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. The project is supported by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. In-kind support is provided by Barbara and Richard S. Lane.