The Salon de Paris was the only major art exhibition in France in the early 1800s, and it exerted a massive influence on the career prospects of artists. The jury favoured traditional compositions with carefully finished images that looked realistic when examined closely. Colours were sombre and conservative, and traces of brush strokes were suppressed, concealing the artist’s personality, emotions, and working techniques.
The ‘rejected’ works which were displayed at the Salon des Refusés were subjected to great criticism by the art critics, but more than a thousand visitors a day visited the Salon (although many came only to laugh).
The official Salon des Refusés which was held only 3 times – in 1863, 1864 and 1873 (it has now used as a term to mean any exhibition of work rejected by the jury of official awards) was important for several different but related reasons:
It provided artists with an opportunity to demonstrate qualities of spontaneity and originality in painting, providing a venue for the avant-garde to showcase their work;
It undermined the prestige of the Paris Salon, in the eyes both of the public and of the artists, because it provided an alternative venue for artists to exhibit their work. After the Salon des Refusés artists began to arrange their own exhibitions (as the Impressionists did, for example, in 1874);
The 1863 Salon des Refusés was marked the debut of Edouard Manet as the leading young artist in Paris, taking over the position that had been Gustave Courbet’s (1819 – 77) for almost fifteen years. Manet, more than any of his contemporaries, was thinking in a new way about art – a way, moreover, which was recognisably modern.
This is an excerpt from my online Introduction to Modern European Art art appreciation program http://www.modernartappreciation.com