From the mid 18th century until the end of the 19th century, every year or so the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris would take place in what was called the Salon. Seen as a preserver of traditional French painting standards of content and style, the Académie’s authority on art was undisputed as the works exhibited were selected by a jury of awarded artists. This inevitably meant that there were many works of art that did not make the cut. And so, sometime in the 1830s exhibitions displaying these works started popping up across Paris: Salon des Refusés – Exhibition of Rejects.
In 1863 the most famous Salon des Refusés took place. In that year, artists protested the Salon jury’s rejection of more than 3,000 works, far more than usual. “Wishing to let the public judge the legitimacy of these complaints,” said an official notice, Emperor Napoléon III decreed that the rejected artists could exhibit their works in an annex to the regular Salon. Among the works exhibited were Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (above) and Whistler’s Symphony in White no 1 (below).
While many viewers came only to laugh, the Salon des Refusés drew attention to the existence of a new tendency in art and attracted more visitors than the regular Salon. That new tendency was Impressionism.
Now, in my own way, I too have created a Salon des Refusés. But I like to think that mine are legitimately rejects. I cannot even begin to explain how painful it is to see a bowl not turn out at all as I had hoped it would. Pottery is such a long process… takes ages to finish each piece… Although I normally try to focus on the positive – it’s all a learning curve, etc. – it still is bloody annoying when things just don’t work out as I had expected them to!