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

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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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The Demand for Peasants: A Statistical Analysis of Rural Imagery at the Paris Salon

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In nineteenth-century France, two histories – one economic and social and one cultural – ran parallel to one another. France was modernising; more cities appeared, the railroad network grew and a larger share of the French population was employed in industry. Around the same time, pictures of everyday rural life – rural genre paintings – were displayed and attracted attention at the Salon. The existing scholarly literature asserts that these two histories are in fact not parallel, but intersecting, and that the artistic phenomenon is a reaction to the social and economic one. This essay presents parts of a project that aimed to verify that assertion using rigorous quantitative analysis and an original dataset.1

From 1831 to 1881, approximately 115,000 paintings and other graphic works were exhibited at the Salon and recorded in the livrets.2 Over the course of twenty years, Dr Jon Whiteley of the Ashmolean Museum assembled an index to every Salon catalogue, the Subject Index to Paintings Exhibited at the Paris Salon, 1673–1881.3 Based on its title, each painting is tagged with one or more keywords, or ‘subject headings’ as Whiteley calls them. These keywords are specific, ranging from ‘Plowing’ to ‘Thieves and Bandits’ to ‘Jealousy’ to the specific geographic location a painting depicts. Digitising portions of this index yielded a new dataset describing ← 341 | 342 → the development of the content of paintings at the Salon, many of which have since been lost, destroyed or buried in obscure collections.

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