At the beginning of the 17th century, nearly three quarters of Antwerp’s artistic production was exported, primarily to France. In Paris, the Saint-Germain fair, which was run by Nordic merchants, sold quantities of Flemish artworks. During the reign of Henri IV, and later under the regency of Marie de Médicis, Flemish artists Baroque master Pierre-Paul Rubens foremost among them received a great many royal commissions: Philippe de Champaigne for portraits and Frans Snyders for animal art. This success led French artists, like the Le Nain brothers, to adopt Flemish subjects and models.

Concurrent with the influence of Flemish art, Nicolas Poussin laid the groundwork for an ideal style of art whose poetic power reached far beyond the borders of France. Under Louis XIII, an authentically French pictoral identity was fashioned, appearing simultaneously among artists such as Poussin, who was deeply influenced by his visit to Rome, and others who never left Paris, including Eustache Le Sueur and Laurent de La Hyre. All of them contributed to the new pictoral language of French Classicism.

Over time, France built its own cultural identity that would influence a number of artists, particularly those from the Low Countries. Attracted by the vast potential of the French market and the magnificence of the courts of Louis XIII and Louis XIV, many painters, particularly those from the principality of Liege, travelled to Paris to hone their skills and learn French pictoral techniques.

In the 17th century the tide of artistic influence turned, and the French Classical school, reinforced by the ascendancy of the reign of Louis XIV, would go on to influence artistic movements throughout Europe.

Accompanies the exhibition of the same name at the Musée Jaquemart-André in Paris, 24 September 2010 24 January 2011.