Sections 1 and 2
Atriums and patios - The cloister
I - Atriums and patios: from peplum to Orientalism
The overwhelming majority of academic history paintings by the Neo-Grec artists of the mid-nineteenth century feature momentous events or evoke classical morals in the enclosed setting of the atrium. Conscience of the significance of heritage, artists such as Bouchor produced pictorial responses to the raw poetry of a Pompeian villa in ruins.
The direct descendent of the atrium is the patio of southern Europe and the Arabo-Andalusian world. In the Orientalist pieces of the nineteenth century depictions alternate between scenes of feminine environments normally hidden from view and architectural draughts brought to life by the brilliance of light. The great Catalan artist Rusiñol produced, twenty years apart, two sets of variations on the blue patios he saw in the region of Barcelona. Whether a humble yard or a luxurious garden, these places constitute a condensate of the painter's personal world, of his everyday matters and obsessions.
II - The cloister, between picturesque and mysticism
Founded in 1795 by Alexandre Lenoir, the Museum of French Monuments was housed in the mediaeval Convent of the Little Augustinians in Paris and fascinated an entire generation of artists. French painters of the early nineteenth century, such as Renoux, retained this curiosity for the fragments of the Middle Ages they glimpsed in the half-light of the cloister. They interpreted the vestiges discovered during travels across France, their vision similar to the authors of Gothic literature.
In the same era two painters from the north evoke the Roman cloisters of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, as if in homage to the church scenes of the Dutch Golden Age.
After 1848 a generation of Realists focused on the silent existence of nuns and the disturbing presence of convent walls. The increasing interest in the notion of heritage began to manifest itself in the popularity of sites such as the Mont Saint Michel and its cloister.
By the twentieth century the subject had disappeared except in some isolated cases, the sensitive and unconventional approach of the Christian painter Usellini being one.