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The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp is the fourth oldest art academy in the world (after Rome, Paris and Florence). It was founded in 1663 by David Teniers the Younger, painter to the Archdukes Leopold Wilhelm and Don Juan of Austria, governors of the Spanish Netherlands (Belgium). Teniers was master of the Guild of St Luke — which embraced arts and some handicrafts — and petitioned Philip IV of Spain, then sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands, to grant a royal charter (6 july 1663) to establish a Fine Arts Academy in Antwerp. (At this time Antwerp was the Capital city of the marquisat of Antwerp, 3th part of the Duchy of Brabant)

19th century

The Royal Academy developed into an internationally acclaimed institute for Fine Arts, Architecture and Design.

From the nineteenth century on, the academy attracted young artists from abroad. Irish, German, Dutch, Polish artists looking for a solid classical training found their way to Antwerp. Under the direction of Gustave Wappers (1803-1874) and his registrar Hendrik Conscience the academy faced significant restructuring. The academy's significant art collection was exhibited in its own gallery space. By 1890 this gallery would develop into the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (in Dutch Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten) and would move to its current location in the South of Antwerp.

In 1880 a promising young artist Henry Van de Velde enrolled at the Antwerp Academy. He would become one of the pioneering 20th century architects and designers. In 1885 and 1886 Vincent Van Gogh was also to spend a short time at the Antwerp academy, prior to his departure to France.

In 1885, King Leopold II commissioned the establishment of the National Higher Institute for Fine Arts Antwerp (in Dutch Nationaal Hoger Instituut voor Schone Kunsten) as a unique post graduate program, inspired by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

20th and 21st centuries

In 1946 the Architecture program became an independent institute: the National Higher Institute of Architecture (since 1991 Henry Van de Velde Institute). Another key moment in the history of the academy would be 1963. A unique new course ‘Fashion Design’ started. This course was moderately successful from the beginning, but became world leading in the early eighties. With over 130 students it's by far the largest program in the visual arts and design department.

In 1995 the higher educational system in the dutchspeaking part of Belgium faced a radical metamorphosis. The Antwerp Academy and the Henry Van de Velde Institute were included as faculties in a bigger college structure: the University College of Antwerp (in Dutch Hogeschool Antwerpen / since 2013 named AP Hogeschool).

The National Higher Institute of Fine Arts developed into a separate entity (HISK Vlaanderen) and moved to Ghent in 2007.

The Academy nowadays offers two programs: Visual Arts and Design and a one year dedicated teachers training. It has both day and evening education programs (DKO: deeltijds kunstonderwijs/ part-time art education), along with ateliers for children and adolescents (age 11-17).

A body of approximately 550 students (half of them with foreign nationalities) work in the four main buildings located in the heart of the city: Mutsaardstraat (Photography, Silversmithing/Jewelry, Theatre Costume Design and Fine Arts), Nationalestraat (Fashion) and Keizerstraat (Printmaking/Graphic design). All the part-time art education ateliers are located at Blindestraat 35 except for the Textile Arts atelier which is located at 'Het Gele huis', St. Bavostraat 2 in Wilrijk.

From 2013-14, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts accommodates six bachelor and master courses of the Faculty Design Sciences of AUHA (Associatie Universiteit en AP Hoge School Antwerpen): Architecture, Interior architecture, Monument and landscape care, Town and area planning, Product design, and Conservation & restoration.

Chief directors of the Royal Academy since 1749 (Austrian period)

1749-1756 - Petrus Franciscus van Schorel, heer van Wilrijk • 1756-1773 - Jan Baptist Verdussen • 1774-1776 - Joannes De Wael • 1776-1784 - Jacobus Abilius Della Faille • 1784-1794 - Josephus Albertus Lunden Directors since 1804 (French period) • 1798-1827 – Willem Jacob Herreyns • 1827-1839 – Matthijs Ignaas Van Bree • 1840-1852 – Gustaaf Wappers • 1852-1855 – Jan Antoon Verschaeren • 1855-1879 - Nicaise De Keyser • 1880-1885 - Jozef Geefs • 1885-1890 – Karel Verlat • 1891-1900 – Albrecht de Vriendt • 1901-1923 – Juliaan de Vriendt • 1923-1936 - Emile Vloors • 1936-1945 - Isidore Opsomer • 1946-1946 - Constant Permeke • 1946-1949 - Isidore Opsomer • 1949-1962 - Julien Creytens • 1962-1977 - Mark Macken • 1977-1983 - L.Theo Van Looij • 1983-1991 - Gerard Gaudaen • 1991-1992 - Walter Villain • 1992-1995 - Johan Swinnen

Department Principals / Deans

• 1996-1997 - Jan Peeters • 1997-2004 - Raf De Smedt • 2005 - Eric Ubben • 2017 - Johan Pas -

Amongst our alumni we count following artists

Lawrence Alma-Tadema • Floris Arntzenius • Alphonse Balat • Fred Bervoets • Dirk Bikkembergs • Jean de Bosschère • Renaat Braem • Frank Bramley • Veronique Branquinho • Emile Claus • Jan Cockx • Luc-Peter Crombé • Luc Cromheecke • Pierre Cuypers • Jimi Dams • Jan Decleir • Nicaise de Keyser • Bob De Moor • Victor Delhez • Ann Demeulemeester • Pieter Franciscus Dierckx • Frans Andries Durlet • Nedda El-Asmar • Jan Fabre • Eduard Frankfort • George Albert Frost • Guillaume Geefs • Gustave Geers • Henry Luyten • Hugo Heyrman • Charles Int Panis • Floris Jespers • Jef Lambeaux • Hendrik Leys • Pol Mara • Martin Margiela • Jacob Maris • Francis Davis Millet • Jef Nys • Dermod O'Brien • Karel Ooms • Walter Osborne • Panamarenko • Wilfried Pas • Jozef Peeters • Friedrich Preller • Benjamin Prins • Piat Sauvage • August Schneider • Shaoul Smira • Daan Stuyven • Josephus Thimister • Luc Tuymans • Walter Tyndale • Walter Van Beirendonck • Charles Van Beveren • Martin Van Cleve • Willy Vandersteen • Henry Van de Velde • Nicole Van Goethem • Vincent van Gogh • Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven • Joke Van Leeuwen • Dries van Noten • George Van Raemdonck • Pieter Van Regemorter • Jan Vanriet • Georges Vantongerloo • Jaak van Wijck • Piet Verhaert • Jan Verhas • Karel Verlat • Henry Vianden • Gustaaf Wappers • Antoine Wiertz • Ivan Willemyns • Willem Witsen • ...

source: wikipedia+ additions based on info provided by Artesis-Plantijn Hogeschool, Universiteit Antwerpen, and cultural -historical books of reference)