Art governed by rules, especially those sanctioned by an official institution, academy or school. Originally applied to art that conformed to standards established by the French academy concerning composition, drawing and colour usage. The term now holds a conservative and unoriginal connotation.
In the 17th through 19th centuries, academies of painting and sculpture had official status in Europe. They also had a high degree of control over what was "acceptable art." So, art in compliance with the standards set by these academic institutions is academic art.
Art conforming or meeting the standards of the French Academy, the official body that promoted art based on the classical ideals.