Art History 101

Meet Great Teachers of Famous Artists

Magda Michalska 5 October 2023 min Read

September and October are the months when students return to school or university. The experience of education and our memories of it are shaped by the people who can make school fun, or on the contrary, hell. Let’s focus on the positives and take a closer look at great teachers, who eventually were surpassed by their students, but without whom those student-artists might have never achieved success.

Fernand Cormon

Fernand Cormon, The Deposed Favourite, before 1924, great teachers
Teachers of famous artists: Fernand Cormon, The Deposed Favourite, before 1924, private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Fernand Cormon was one of the leading historical painters in France. He had been taught by Alexandre Cabanel and since his style was liked by the French Salon, he decided to open his own art school. His Atelier Cormon started around 1880s and attracted many prodigious students. He tried to train them in the art of historical painting accepted by the Salon, but a few of his students were not susceptible to this teaching. Among these disobedient students were Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh.

Eugène Boudin

Teachers of famous artists: Eugène Louis Boudin, Le Havre, The Port, 1884, Brooklyn Museum., great teachers
Teachers of famous artists: Eugène Louis Boudin, Le Havre, The Port, 1884, Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY, USA.

Eugène Boudin was a pioneer of outdoor painting in France. He was most famous for his marinas. Also he had sailing in his blood because his father had a ferryboat and Boudin worked with him as a child. Later they opened a shop together with stationery where a young Boudin would meet artists. He went on to study too and befriended such celebrities as Charles Baudelaire. He also met a very young, promising caricature maker – an 18-year-old Claude Monet. It was Boudin who persuaded young Monet to abandon drawing and to start painting outdoors. They remained lifelong friends and Monet was always grateful for the lessons in landscape painting and inspiration.

Charles de Steuben

Teachers of famous artists: Charles Auguste Guillaume Steuben, Bataille de Poitiers, 1837, Palace of Versailles, great teachers
Teachers of famous artists: Charles Auguste Guillaume Steuben, Bataille de Poitiers, 1837, Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France.

Charles Auguste Guillaume Steuben was a German-French baron who painted and made lithographs in the Romantic style. His father was a captain and when little Charles was 12 they traveled to St Petersburg, where he attended drawing classes at the Academy. Thanks to his connections he could move to Paris where he studied at the prestigious École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts from such great teachers as Jacques-Louis David. His debut in the Salon ensured a career for him, yet the unstable financial situation forced him to also establish an art school. He was a teacher of Gustave Courbet, however Courbet couldn’t stand the traditional ways of teaching and painting that Steuben offered, so he quickly left.

José Guadalupe Posada

Teachers of famous artists: José Guadalupe Posada , La Calavera Catrina, 1913, great teachers
Teachers of famous artists: José Guadalupe Posada, La Calavera Catrina, 1913, from the Portfolio 36 Grabados, published by Arsacio Vanegas, Mexico City, Mexico.

José Guadalupe Posada was an illustrator, printmaker, and engraver, whose art was deeply engaged in Mexican politics. His calaveras, skulls, and skeletons expressed socio-political critique and at the same time inspired many other Mexican artists. One of the future Muralists, José Clemente Orozco, every day on his way to school, passed Posada’s printing shop. He remembered: “I would stop and spend a few enchanted minutes in watching… This was the push that first set my imagination in motion and impelled me to cover paper with my earliest little figures; this was my awakening to the existence of the art of painting.”

We hope you meet many great teachers like these on your path to knowledge!

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