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The Paris Fine Art Salon/Le Salon, 1791–1881


Edited By James Kearns and Alister Mill

Following on from « Ce Salon à quoi tout se ramène » : Le Salon de peinture et de sculpture, 1791–1890, published in 2010 as an earlier volume in this series, this volume contains a selection of the papers given at the first major international conference to be held on the post-1789 Paris Fine Art Salon. Hosted by the University of Exeter in September 2013, the conference had its origins in the research project entitled Painting for the Salon? The French State, Artists and Academy, 1830–1852, funded in 2010–2012 by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, and its purpose was to situate findings of this research within the wider framework of the Salon’s nineteenth-century history. In this collection of twenty-three papers, fourteen in English, nine in French, established and new scholars of French art history examine the national and international artistic, political and cultural dimensions of the most important regular exhibition of contemporary art in the nineteenth-century world.
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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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