Michel, André

Full Name: 
Michel, André
Other Names: 
André Michel
André-Paul-Charles Michel
Date Born: 
1853
Date Died: 
1925
Place Born: 
Montpellier, France
Place Died: 
Paris, France
Home Country: 
France
Overview: 
Art critic, professor, curator. Michel was from a protestant family of Montpellier, where his grandfather had been a minister. After graduating with a degree in arts and history in Montpellier, he went to Paris in 1872 where he briefly studied law. He then enrolled in the école des Hautes études and the école des Beaux-Arts where he studied under Hippolyte Taine. In 1880 he settled in Paris where he became a contributor to various art magazines including the Gazette des Beaux-Arts and the Journal des Débats. He regularly reviewed exhibitions in Paris, such as the yearly Paris Salon and the Exposition Universelle. In 1886 he published a monograph on the painter François Boucher. Between 1887 and 1893 Michel taught history of art at the école Spéciale d'Architecture. He also wrote articles for the Grande Encyclopédie (Paris, 1885-1902). In 1891 he published L'école française de David à Delacroix. In 1893 he joined Louis Courajod at the Louvre Museum as adjunct curator of the Department of Sculpture of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Modern Age. He also attended Courajod's classes at the école du Louvre. He succeeded Courajod at his death in 1896 and began teaching the history of French sculpture at the école du Louvre. A number of his exhibition revues later appeared together under the title, Notes sur l'art moderne (1896) and Les Salons de 1897 (1897). He was the co-editor (with Henry Lemonnier) of the lectures of Courajod (1887-1896), published 1899-1902. Michel lectured throughout Europe. In the fall of 1903 he visited a number of universities and colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Wellesley, and Smith. Michel hit upon the idea of creating a multi-volume general history of western art from the early Christian period up to the twentieth century, called Histoire de l'art. The first volume appeared in 1905. In addition to being the editor, he contributed many sections on French and Italian sculpture and wrote concluding essays for each volume. In the first year of World War I, in 1914, Michel lost his son, Robert, in action and never recovered from his grief. The war also interrupted the publication of the Histoire de l'art volumes. In 1917 Michel was elected a member to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. In 1920 he was appointed as professor at the Collège de France and left the Louvre. Three years later his weakening health forced him into retirement. By that time the seventh volume of his Histoire de l'art was published. Michel died in 1925, the last volume not yet completed. It was edited and published in 1929 by his pupil and successor at the Louvre, Paul Vitry. Michel questioned the use of the term "Middle Ages" for the period between Antiquity and Renaissance. His Histoire de l'art, one of the earliest general art histories of the 20th century, was meant to give a synthesis of the continuous evolution of art from one school to the other and from one period to the other, including the applied arts. Inspired by his mentor, Taine, Michel was convinced that the milieu in which art works were created needed to be studied. Like for his predecessor, Courajod, and many other French scholars of the time, he believed the aesthetic value of the artwork deserved to be considered above historical documentation.
Bibliography: 
François Boucher. Paris: Librairie de l'Art, 1886; L'école française de David à Delacroix. Paris: Librairie Illustrée, 1891; Notes sur l'art moderne (peinture) Corot, Ingres, Millet, Eugène Delacroix, Raffet, Meissonier, Puvis de Chavannes. A travers les Salons. Paris: A. Colin, 1896; Les Salons de 1897. Ouvrage précédé d'une étude sur les Salons au Palais de l'Industrie de 1857 à 1897. Paris: Journal des Débats et Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1897; and Lemonnier, Henry, eds. Louis Courajod. Leçons professées à l'école du Louvre (1887-1896). 1. Origines de l'art roman et gothique, 2. Origines de la Renaissance, 3. Origines de l'art moderne. Paris: Alphonse Picard et Fils, éditeurs, 1899-1903; and Vitry, Paul, eds. L'histoire de l'art depuis les premiers temps chrétiens jusqu'à nos jours. 8 vols, 17 parts. Paris: A. Colin, 1905-1929; and Laran, Jean. Puvis de Chavannes. Paris: La Renaissance du Livre, J. Gillequin & cie, 1911; and Migeon, Gaston. Le Musée du Louvre, sculptures et objets d'art du moyen âge, de la renaissance et des temps modernes. Paris: Renouard, 1912.
Sources: 
"M. André Michel, Art Critic, in this City." New York Times November 19, 1903, p. 16; Vitry, Paul. "André Michel" Gazette des Beaux-Arts s. 5, 12, (1925): 317-332; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l'histoire de l'art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 373- 375; Asfour, Amal. "Michel, André(-Paul-Charles)" Dictionary of Art 21 (1996): 428.
Contributor: 
Monique Daniels