Mr French and I were strolling in the ‘hood recently one weekend and saw that the Ecole des Beaux Arts was open for visitors. The premier art school in France, its official name is the Ecole Nationale Superior des Beaux Arts. The students stick to Beauzahr.
Founded in 1648 by Cardinal Mazarin (love that man, he also founded my beloved library) the school helped formed artists like Degas, Delcroix, Monet, Renoir, and Cassatt. Fashion designer Valentino was a student, as was comic book (illustrated novelp artist Joann Sfar.
On the Left Bank, just steps from the Pont des Arts, the present buildings went up in the 19th century and they are a glorious ode to classical architecture. There is an inner courtyard garden surrounded by an arcade with arches, a large winter courtyard with a glass ceiling and a collection of wood paneled lecture halls. A mural in the main amphitheater features toga clad artists from across the ages having engrossed in conversation. What exactly was Leonardo whispering to Michelangelo? Is Raphael real giving advice to Styros?
The “chapel” is a sanctuary to statuary. Replicas of famous sculptures from ancient Greece to the Middle Ages are scattered through out the space, dramatic compelling students to study the strokes of the masters, as they dream of following in their brush strokes.
The school holds exhibitions every spring. The current show is Pliure, a play on words with Reliure (bookbinding). I haven’t seen it, yet, but the shows are always a great excuse to get a peek at the school.
A like many of us as we hit 350 years, the school could use some support. It needs some serious restoration work with an upgrade into the 21st century. Like an American super hero, along comes Ralph Lauren, offering to finance the project in honor of his father, a gifted muralist who painted homes to support his family. The goal is to bring the place to life so that it remains relevant and can connect with the world beyond the golden arrow gilded gates.