Created in Paris, France by Gustave Courbet in 1850, it was called called the Scandal of Salon of 1850. Angered at the jury for rejecting his paintings at the L'academie Francaise (or The French Academy) the Salon des Refusés became the popular place to exhibit the large number of works submitted by the avant-garde in the nineteenth century.
In 1861, one thousand, two hundred and eighty-nine painters were accepted for the Emperor's Salon. In 1863, the number fell to 988. A total of 2,800 canvases were rejected. Since the art buying public purchased art only from artists sanctioned by the Salon, rejection condemned many artists to starvation and deprivation.
The Academy Salons were government-subsidized arbiters of French art--'warehouses' as Émile Zola called them--where the artists of France annually exhibited thousands of canvases. Recognition or prizes at the Salon could ensure professional success; refusal or rejection often led to neglect or failure.
The Hanging Committee of the Salon had tremendous power and the Cafe de Bade, where Édouard Manet and his friends met became a center of protest. News of the protests of the young painters had reached the Emperor's ears. On April 22, Napoleon III himself suddenly appeared at the Palais de l'Industrie and demanded to be shown both the accepted and rejected pictures. The Emperor was shown some 40 canvases. He insisted that the Hanging Committee meet again to reconsider the rejected canvases. The members of the Hanging Committee threatened to resign based on their beliefs that it was essential to block subversive artists, who were a danger to society and, if encouraged, would multiply!
Napoleon III decreed that the public must be given the opportunity of judging for themselves. All the works submitted would be exhibited. Four days later, the astonished painters read of the Emperor's decision in an official announcement in the Moniteur. On April 28th, 1861, a second announcement informed them that 'the exhibition of rejected works' would open a fortnight after the Salon itself, on May 15th.
'People laughed, cried, embraced each other...From the Observatoire to the Moulin de la Galette, the whole artistic world was in a state of effervescence.'
There was immense joy in the studios!!! The 'Refuses' were the great event of the season. When The Salon opened on 1 May, it quickly became evident that the public's main interest would be centered not on the Salon itself, but on the rejected works. Major artists represented included Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, and Whistler. In spite of some unfavourable reaction to the works shown there, the Salon des Refuséswas of great significance in undermining the prestige of the official Salon. It drew huge crowds, who came mainly to ridicule, and Édouard Manet's Déjeuner sur l'herbe was subjected to furious abuse.
On August 14 it was decreed that the Salon of rejected works would continue and changes to the composition of the Hanging Committee Jury were announced.
Jubilant students went to the Academy and erected a huge black cross with an inscription in white letters:
'Here lies the Hanging Committee of the Institute!' After dancing wildly around it, they set off marching through the streets of Paris carrying an effigy of the Academy.
The Salon, at least until the 1880's, was the field of intense professional rivalry among artists and the battleground of "modern" versus "traditional."
The Salon des Refusés is regarded as a turning point in the history of art and 1863 is, in the words of Alan Bowness (Modern European Art, 1972),
'the most convenient date from which to begin any history of modern painting'.
De La Croix, Horst, Richard D. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick.
Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
History of Le Salon des Refusés:
Salon des Refusés: