French Painting The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture and Le Salon des Refuses
Charles X Presenting Awards at the Salon of 1824, 1825


Formed in 1648, the academy was established as a way of adding art theory to the craftsmanship learned in the guilds. In 1663, under Louis XIV, the Royal Academy became a system for insuring that the visual arts glorified the king. Its authority extended beyond just funding of the arts, and it educated artists only in the officially approved 'royal' style. A rigid set of rules dictated the instruction of practice and theory, with a strong emphasis on Classicism. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were virtually no independent exhibitions. By the second half of the century, the circle of patronage was widening due to the growth of an affluent middle class, but the taste of these buyers was still being determined by acceptance of a piece by the Academy. The public was willing to pay enormous prices for work by these prestigious artists, most of whom are now considered unoriginal and are no longer regarded as having been great masters of the nineteenth century.

In 1863, there were protests by the artists rejected for the emperor's Salon. On April 22, Napoleon III appeared at the Palaios de l'Industrie and demanded to be shown both the accepted and rejected works. After viewing them, he demanded that the Hanging Committee meet again to review the canvases in question. The Committee threatened to resign, believing that these artists were best kept away from the viewing public. The Emperor decreed that the public be given an opportunity to judge for themselves, and all the works submitted were exhibited. On April 24th, an official announcement was made in the Moniteur, and on April 28th, the Salon des Refuses was set to open two weeks after the Salon itself, on May 15th.

Back to Sculpture and Painting