The Salon des Refusés and its Origin

For the very first time, in 1863, an artwork exhibit was created in Paris. It consisted of the artwork that was rejected by jurors of the Salon of the French Academy.  Blair Stover takes a look at The Salon des Refusés and its origin.

In 1648, the French Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture became established. An extremely high standard for artists was set by the Academy, as well as a precise set of guidelines that students had to follow. In this period, French artist sought to create art in the Ancient Classical works manner. This subject matter focused around still-life painting and history painting, with history painting being at the top of the hierarchy.

Doors to the French Academy in Rome opened in 1666. The British Royal Academy opened a century later in 1768. Artists who were worthy of royal commissions were trained in these Academies. In 1789, during the French Revolution, the Academies were closed due to their association with the upper class and royalty.

The academy was re-opened in 1795 as a state school by the name of Ecole des Beauz-Arts. The focus for students was on perspective, drawing and anatomy. In 1816, history painting was taught in the new Academy, which was re-opened as a branch of the school.

Along with being an art school, the French Academy also held bi-annual, and later annual, art exhibitions or “Salons”. In 1863, over half of the 2,000 works of art submitted for the Salon were refused by the Salons by the jury. As an idea of Napoleon III, who felt the jury was too strict, the first “Salon des Refuses” was held. It was meant to offer another chance for artists to exhibit their work and let the public decide for themselves.

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