From the 14th to the 16th century
From the 14th century. realism begins to manifest itself with the first portraits (John the Good, Louvre; statues and portraits of Charles V and his wife, portraits of the tombs of Saint-Denis etc.). Under the influence of Honoré’s refined elegance, J. Pucelle’s art embraces realistic motifs and a sense of space from Italian painting. Paris becomes a capital of the arts. Ties are tightened with Flanders and with Italy, and a new art of complex naturalistic and decorative tendencies is born. The popes, transferring the seat of the papacy to Avignon, brought Italian artists there, including S. Martini. A significant work of this period is the ensemble of sculptures from the Carthusian monastery of Champmol in Dijon (J. de Marville and C. Sluter). Similar tendencies are manifested in the miniature (book of hours of the Duke of Berry, 1416, by the brothers de Limbourg) and in the stained glass window. Political troubles downsize the role of Paris and important artistic currents are formed in the Rhone valley, in Burgundy, in Avignon, in the Loire region and in Touraine with Renato d’Angiò.
Painting is always under the Flemish influence; the Annunciation of Aix, the Nativity of Autun, the works of E. Charonton and N. Froment are outstanding masterpieces. The knowledge of the renewal of Italian art in the first half of the fifteenth century soon made itself felt. In 1454 J. Fouquet is in Rome while Italian artists and works go to France (F. Laurana, G. Mazzoni etc.). Bolognese artists fresco the vaults of the cathedral of Albi. Under Francis I, with the presence of Leonardo and his followers, then with the Rosso, the Primaticcio, Niccolò dell’Abate and B. Cellini there is a further penetration of Italian art (exemplary model is the palace of Fontainebleau).
According to Ehistorylib, Gothic art continued to exist, especially in sacred architecture, in the so-called flamboyant style, in which Italian Renaissance motifs gradually overlap. They develop their own language, leaving a noticeable imprint even with their treatises: P. Lescot (reconstruction of the Louvre), P. Delorme (castle of Anet), J. Bullant (castle of Écouen), J. Androuet du Cerceau. Excellent mannerists in painting are J. Clouet, J. Cousin, A. Caron, while the sculpture includes the exquisite works of J. Goujon and G. Pilon.
The 17th and 18th centuries
Until 1660 France was still closely linked to Italian art in many respects: for the major artistic enterprises they call themselves Italian artists; S. Vouet, C. Le Brun, P. Mignard, N. Poussin, C. Lorrain, live for a long time in Italy.
The architecture in particular is strongly Italian; the dome imposed itself throughout the century and the use of overlapping orders is frequent; however, a need for clarity and dignity is affirmed which transforms the imaginative Italian Baroque into well-disciplined monumental symmetries, such as French taste and politics at that time desired. Fact capital is the foundation of the Academy (1648), conceived to establish rules and methods, to define the purpose and formulas of art; an example of a classical art are the works of N. Poussin who, despite living in Rome, exercises immense authority and influence over the whole of France. The French Academy of Rome is founded (1660) as a seminary for young artists. The portrait painters P. de Champaigne and H. Rigaud, G. de La Tour, E. Le Seuer, painter of sacred and mythological subjects, the Le Nain brothers, the engravers J. Callot and A. Bosse are worthy of particular mention. At the beginning of the reign of Louis XIV, C. Le Brun remained in charge of the arts and took over the direction of the great enterprise of the time: Versailles.
Towards the end of the century, masterpieces on an urban scale were born, such as place Vendôme and place des Victoires in Paris, the colonnade of Versailles, the last work of J.-H. Mansart. With the students of this, G.-G. Boffrand and J.-A. Gabriel, architecture emancipated itself completely from Italy.
Painting is closely linked to the Academy with A. Coypel, France Lemoine, J.-F. de Troy, France Jouvenet, P. Mignard. The academic language is overtaken by A. Watteau, the greatest French painter of the eighteenth century. The large decoration remains reserved for tapestries with J.-F. de Troy, C.-J. Natoire, France Boucher. The regular establishment of the Salons in 1737 spread painting among amateurs, giving fame to painters such as J.-B. Greuze, J.-B. Chardin, France Boucher, J.-H. Fragonard, M.-Q. de La Tour, and many others.
In architecture, neoclassicism has a theoretical contribution with M.-A. Laugier and J.-F. Blondel, while different personalities coexist, by J.-A. Gabriel (Petit Trianon, place Louis XV, ora de la Concorde etc.), J.-G. Soufflot (Panthéon), P. Constant d’Ivry and P. Vignon (church of La Madeleine), to the enlightenment and revolutionaries E. -L. Boullée and N. Ledoux.
The classicist inspiration, which remains constant in the sphere of sculpture, finds more personal characterizations in the portraiture of J.-B. Pigalle and especially J.-A. Houdon. In painting, ethical and political issues characterize the work of J.-L. David, a dominant figure in the last quarter of the century. With the works of his pupils P.-N. Guérin, A.-L. Girodet, France Gérard, A.-G. Gros, the neoclassical ideal is colored with shades close to the romantic movement.