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Art Anecdotes : Salon des Refusés

Through ART ANECDOTES, Art From Us brings you funny, heart-warming and sometimes heartbreaking stories that shape Artists and their work. Today we look at the story of “Salon des Refusés”.

Art From Us and Divvya Nirula bring to you a curated collection of Art related events, from suspected murder, to love affairs, to grand theft and curious cases of creation through ART ANECDOTES. Join us on this fun-filled ride of exploring and reliving these art-tales.

Authority of the French Academy

The Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris was the absolute authority on art in the 18th and 19th centuries. France was the world capital for art and culture. Thus, artists from all over the world traveled here to learn, teach and create. Getting in to the French Academy however was not a piece of cake. The Academy was strict with their definition of what comprises good art. And this definition was heavily influenced by the Classical style of the Western Masters. Therefore, colour, form, structure were all important considerations.

The Salon

The Academy held an annual exhibition of their artists, called the Salon. For serious artists, this was the event to be part of. Having your art showcased art the Salon was a big deal. But again, it wasn’t easy. The jury only picked the best paintings – judged by conservative Academic standards. This was until the Salon des Refuses was established!

An Artistic Revolution

Towards the end of the 19th century, artists grew tired of the Academy dictating what they could and couldn’t paint. So, in retaliation, a small group of Paris-based artists held their own exhibition, independent of the Academy. And thus, Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro, Edgar Degas and others started the Salon des Refusés (The Salon of the Refuses). Each artist that was part of this parallel exhibition had been rejected for showing at the Salon. So, they started hosting their own shows.

Salon des Refusés – 1874

The Salon des Refusés 1874 was a significant moment in art history for many reasons. Firstly, it showed a departure from Academic art. It marked the beginning of the Academy’s decline as the authority on art. Secondly, it was a stepping stone to entire Modernist movement. And lastly, it was the birthplace of Impressionism.

The exhibition showcased works that caused much outrage and scandal. The use of loud colours, the unorthodox application of paint, the emphasis of expression over structure. Viewers were very disturbed by this ‘new generation’ of art. One painting in particular stood apart as being too far a departure from Academic art. This was Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (1872). The artist painted sunrise over the Port of Le Havre. He used loose and textural brushwork. The colours were muted and dull. And the whole painting looked like – well, an impression.

Art Critic Louis Leroy was very vocal in his dislike of Monet’s work. However, it was he who inadvertently also gave the painting legitimacy. Leroy first coined the term ‘Impressionist’ in reaction to Monet’s work, stating that it was not good enough to even be called a painting. And with this, one of the most iconic art movements of the 19th century began!

While Monet and his contemporaries are considered artistic greats today, they had to fight for the right to express themselves at the time. Creating art like this back then was nothing short of revolutionary.

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