Salon des Refusés
Exhibition of Rejected Art, Paris 1863.

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Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (1862)
By Edouard Manet.
The most controversial painting
at the Salon des Refusés.

Salon des Refusés (1863)
Exhibition of Rejected or Refused Artworks


What is the Salon des Refusés?
Exhibition of Rejected Art (1863)
Public Scandal over Manet's painting "Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe"
Why is the Salon des Refusés So Important?
Later Salons
19th Century Parisian Art

For details of art movements
and styles, see: History of Art.
For a quick guide to specific
styles, see: Art Movements.

What is the Salon des Refusés?

In French painting, the term "Salon des Refusés" refers to an art exhibition held in Paris, in 1863, to show paintings that had been rejected by the selection committee of the "Paris Salon" - the official annual showcase of French art. (Note: the French Academy remained the organizers of the annual Salon exhibition, artworks for which were approved or rejected by a jury or committee of reputable, usually conservative, artists, typically drawn from members of the Academy. Since the Academy was the traditional champion of the orthodox style of painting and sculpture known as "Academic Art" - the majority of the jury tended to vote against any artwork which was in the least bit unconventional. Both subject matter and style were judged by the selection jury. Subjects were ranked according to an official Hierarchy of Genres, and lower ranked genres were regarded less favourably. Please see also: Painting Genres. In terms of style, the Academy expected idealized, true-to-life realist painting with all traces of brushwork erased leaving a polished finish. A rejected painting might be very bad news for an artist, since the Salon show provided the only opportunity in the French arts calendar for him to display his works to art collectors and dealers, as well as art critics and writers.)

Note: See also: the Salon des Independants (from 1884) and the Salon d'Automne (from 1903).

Exhibition of Rejected Art (1863)

In 1863, so many paintings had been rejected by the Salon selection jury (fewer than 2,218 pictures out of a total of over 5,000 were accepted) and so many artists protested, that Emperor Napoleon III (ever sensitive to public opinion) ordered a new exhibition to be organized - dubbed the "Salon des Refusés" (Exhibition of Rejected Art) - in order to display all the paintings and sculptures that had been refused admission to the Salon, so as to allow the public to judge the merits of these works for themselves.

The exhibition program for the Salon des Refusés lists 780 works by 64 sculptors and 366 painters, along with a small number of printmakers and architects. Famous painters whose works were shown, included: Edouard Manet (1832-83), Gustave Courbet (1819-77), Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Johan Jongkind (1819-1891), James Whistler (1834-1903) and Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904).

Public Scandal over Manet's oil painting "Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe"

The Salon des Refusés drew huge crowds of more than a thousand per day, many of whom were particularly affronted by the scandalous nudity on show in Manet's oil painting "Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe" (1862, Musee d'Orsay) (The Luncheon on the Grass), which depicted a female nude having a picnic with two fully dressed men in (presumably) the Bois de Boulogne. The picture sparked outrage, even among certain artists, including Odilon Redon (1840-1916). Another exhibit was Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (1862, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC) by James Whistler (1834-1903). This portrait of his mistress and business manager Joanna Hiffernan was much more favourably received than Manet's work, although its association with the English Pre-Raphaelites was not approved of by all the critics.

Why is the Salon des Refusés So Important?

Three reasons. (1) Because it undermined the infallibility of the French Academy and, by implication, Academic art across Europe. (2) Because it highlighted the need for alternative "unofficial" exhibitions, to prevent highly conservative academic bodies from dominating both aesthetics and public taste in art. (3) Because, to a great extent, it legitimized the newly emerging forms of avant-garde art, and paved the way for the even more shocking style of "Impressionism", which its exponents unleashed on Paris in 1874, in a series of independently organized exhibitions (1874-84).

Later Salons des Refusés

Three more Salons des Refusés were held in Paris - in 1874, 1875, and 1886 - although by then the novelty had faded, as other "unofficial" art exhibitions began to appear. The Salon des Independants, organized by Georges Seurat (1859-1891), began in 1884, while the Salon d'Automne opened in 1903. Nowadays the term "Salon des Refusés" is used to denote any art exhibition devoted to the display of works rejected by a juried art show.

19th Century Parisian Art

Paris, the world centre of art, was the birthplace of several important modern art movements during the sixty years between 1870 and 1930. It even had its own name - Paris School (Ecole de Paris) - describing the painters and sculptors most closely associated with the city.

The Impressionist painters - Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas and others - were Known for their "new style of painting", which was not well received by the French public. See also: Impressionist Exhibitions in Paris (1874-86).

A broad umbrella term covering Neo-Impressionism (1880-1900), Pointillism (1884-1904), Cloisonnism (1888-94), Synthetism (1888-94), Les Nabis (1890s) and Toulouse-Lautrec's beautiful poster art for theatres and cabarets.

Includes Fauvism (1904-6), a trend led by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and designs for Paris-based Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (1909-29).

Cubism, co-invented by Picasso (1881-1973) and Braque (1882-1963).

Paris during the Interwar Years
Includes Surrealism, a development of Dada overseen by theorist Andre Breton (1896-1966), as well as the pioneering fine art photography of artists like Eugene Atget (1857-1927), Man Ray (1890-1976) and Brassai (1899-1984).


• For information about modernist painting and sculpture in Paris, see: Homepage.

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