Main Exhibit

Paris Salon Essays

Essay #1 by Catherine Little Bert

In 1990 Lois Fink documented in American Art at the Nineteenth - Century Paris Salons the remarkable pilgrimage of American painters to Paris for instruction and exhibition experience. Other European cities attracting artists seeking educational opportunities included London, Antwerp and Munich. Due to limited American art instruction; nineteenth century native painters often sought refuge in the ateliers of the master instructors in the great European cities. Likewise, Rhode Island artists followed suit, boarding steamers to seek adventure and instruction in the mecca of the art world, Paris. There were two choices for art instruction the Ecole des Beaux Arts and Julian Academy.

The Ecole des Beaux-Arts on the rue Bonaparte enrolled one thousand students per year – 500 fine artists and 500 architects. It had a reputation for producing great artists and set a standard for methods of training that centered on the mastery of the human figure, with practice in drawing from casts of antique and Renaissance sculpture, drawing and painting from nude models, and creating compositions. Straightforward, broad draughtsman ship was emphasized. Teachers in the painting studios were Gerome, Cabanel and Lehmann. You were required to pass an entrance examination with questions in history and other academic subjects as well as having a certain level of technical proficiency.

Julian Academie charged a nominal fee to enroll and administered a series of studios where about six hundred students worked under William Bougueraue, Gustave Boulanger, Benjamin Constant, Jules Lefebvre and Tony Robert-Fleury. The Ecoles’ basic principle of working from models and having instructors teach by criticizing students’ work was followed. Unlike the Ecole there was a lack of entrance examinations or age restrictions and the possibility of working longer hours; studios were open until dark in the late afternoon, whereas at the Ecole, they closed in the afternoon. Many Americans went to Julian for just these reasons.
American Art at the Nineteenth-Century Paris Salons Lois Marie Fink Cambridge University Press 1990

The great challenge for the artist studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts or the Julian Acadmie was to enter the juried exhibition of the “Salon”. Acceptance into the Salon exhibit was very difficult but if one succeeded it was critical to cultivating patronage and selling paintings back home in the United States. Entering a Salon not only required disciplined hard work, it was expensive. Artists had to hire models, use the materials, engage draymen to transport their works, and pay entry fees – as well as maintain ordinary expenses for their studios and rooms while they were involved almost full time for months producing their Salon entries.
In the current Bert Gallery exhibit there are three artists on view who were selected for exhibition at the Salon – Brown, Tolman and Hitchcock.

Walter Francis Brown (1853 - 1929)
Paris student at Ecole des Beaux Arts and private studios of Gerome and Bonnat
Special Career Notes: Paris Salon Exhibit 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884. Brown became and ex-patriot living in Venice but continuing to exhibit in Rhode Island throughout his lifetime at the Providence Art Club. His brother was a Rhode Island Federal Court judge in Rhode Island and Walter was a studio mate in Paris with Burleigh.

George Hitchcock (1850 – 1913)
Academie Julian, Paris with Boulanger and Lefebvre
Sutter Plamer in London and H. Mesdag at the Hague
Special Career Notes: Paris Salon Exhibits 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1899 with a Law Degree from Harvard. He spent winters in Paris and spring and summer in Holland – his Holland houseboat was named “The Tulip”. Hitchcock was an associate member of the National Academy of Design.

Stacy Tolman (1860 – 1935)
Academie Julian, Paris with Boulanger and Lefebvre
Private studio Cabanel
Special Career Notes: Paris Salon Exhibit 1885, studio in Burleigh’s Fleur de Lys building, Director of Drawing at RISD, Metropolitan Museum collection “The Etcher”, 1979 Solo article on Tolman’s Career by Whitney Museum Director in the American Art Journal, 1979.

Here are some interesting notes about the Salon from:
American Art at the Nineteenth - Century Paris Salons, Lois Fink, 1990

Intro page xv
The salon of 1880 displayed seven thousand works, making it impossible for it to be anything other than a colossal indoor flea market. Still, it continued to certify the “value” that dealers and collectors required. In comparison – the Royal Academy averaged about 2,000 paintings.

xxxiii, 125-126
Salon participation increased in the 1860’s and intensified, as the Americans became, by the mid -1880’s, the largest group of non-French exhibitors. By the mid 1880’s artists from the United States became the largest foreign group in the Parisian art community. …Americans were more visible in the Paris art world of the 1880’s and the 1890’s not merely because of an increase in numbers, but also because of the acclaim they received for their works.

xxxiii, 113
More than a thousand took part in the Paris exhibitions from 1872 – 1899.
Whereas only a couple of hundred between 1800 and 1870.

Number of Americans selected for the Salon

  • In 1875 there were 23
  • In 1880 there were 107
  • In 1890 there were 177
  • In 1899 there were 234

Read Essay #2


George Hitchcock (1850-1913), "Holland - Field of Flowers", watercolor, 6 x 12

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