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What is an "Atelier"?

Pronounced “ah-TEL-ee-yay”, the word atelier is a French term meaning "workshop" or "artist’s studio".

The word "atelier" has come to be synonymous with the current resurgence of 19th century academic art training. An atelier course of study starts with copying master drawings and progresses to drawing plaster casts of classical sculpture. These studies are done in preparation for figure drawing and figure painting from life. Landscape, still life and portrait painting are often also included in the curriculum.

For 500 years, from the Renaissance through the 19th century, aspiring artists apprenticed in the atelier of an established artist before they could apply to a guild to become a professional artist.

Today's ateliers are small, independent art schools, usually started in the personal studio of a single artist, with a focus on historic art education models, and based on the observation of nature.

Atelier students do not work from photographs, which is one of the main ways atelier training is distinct from other kinds of representational art training.

Bouguereau's Atelier at Académie Julian, Paris, 1891 
by Jefferson David Chalfant
de Young Museum of San Francisco

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