In 19th century France, the Art is completely and strictly controlled by the French State via l’Académie des Beaux-Arts.
The State enjoyed a monopoly of the Art. It produced the schools, the teachers, and the exhibitions such as the Salon de Paris.
The Salon de Paris took place annually and was a showcase of the best Academic Art.
For an artist, being accepted by the Salon de Paris was the guarantee of a successful artistic career! The perfect place to sell your paintings, make connections, take orders for future paintings etc.
The most talented participants were given official commissions by the French government as well as being sought after for portraits and private commissions.
How to decide who is in or out? Was it completely subjective?
Here are the rules the artists were to follow. They were told:
-What to paint: history, religion / mythology, portraits were the best – landscapes not so valuable, still life even less.
-How to paint: the idea was to avoid any visible sign of manual labor meaning no paint brush marks were allowed = le fini.
La Naissance de Vénus above is the perfect example! Alexandre Cabanel was Napoléon III’s favorite painter!
And now let’s have a look at a list of people who did not like being told what to do!
In 1863, 2/3 of the paintings were turned down by the Salon de Paris. Let’s say they were a little too different!
But 2/3 is a lot! Even too much. So Napoléon III decided to give them their own space and let the public decide. This is how the Salon des Refusés was launched!
Et voilà les stars:
Manet was different however as he had no interest in being part of an avant-garde movement. He just wanted to modernize old subjects while being accepted by the Salon de Paris. Ironically, he very much inspired artistic rebels to more modern themes = gardens, parks, cafés, boulevards of Paris, and of course the countryside outside of Paris.
We like to think of a certain Impressionist style… However, what brought the Impressionists together was certainly NOT a common style! This may sound strange but if you compare these 2 paintings, I am sure you will agree with me:
Totally different, right? Nothing in common!
Well then what is it that brought these people together? Why were they given this Impressionist label?…