Edited By James Kearns and Alister Mill
Salon and Early Republican Experiments in State Patronage
The Paris Salon exhibition assumed particular importance during the late 1790s and early 1800s in relation to defining a policy of state patronage of the arts. The Salon’s role as a showcase for public art was reinforced against the forces of economic liberalism that would turn it into a free market for the display of art. Different participants in the civil society that was in formation redefined public support for the arts to ensure its responsiveness to a newly democratic base, on the one hand, and to a fledgling Republican state, on the other. What unfolded between 1791, when the first open Salon exhibition was held, and 1806, when the second Salon of the Napoleonic Empire took place, was a very messy and complicated story of a democratic system of public arts funding endeavouring to establish itself. This was an experimental and lively moment, when stakeholders made their opinions known and the idealism of revolutionary reform of the arts took full flight. The system was at its most flexible from an economic point of view, with financial credits approved but monies rarely released, creating a situation of promise that kept hopes alive. The years cemented the relation of the Salon exhibition to public patronage of the arts and created a foundation for public patronage that remained in place during the middle decades of the nineteenth century.
I will refer to three moments or stages of that complex history: 1) the high revolutionary moment of 1793 to...
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