Exposition des Beaux-Arts, 1857, 27 letters: Furor over Rejected Artists Led to the Formation of the Salon des Refusés 6 Years Later!

Outstanding Archive Regarding the Exposition des Beaux-Arts, 1857: Furor over Rejected Artists Led to the Formation of the Salon des Refusés 6 Years Later!


Archive of letters in French addressed to Philippe de Chennevieres (1820-1899), the Inspector/Director of the Expositions des Beaux-Arts, or Paris Salons, between 1852-1869. Consisting of 27 letters, dating mostly from the spring and summer of 1857 (with two outliers). On cream and blue stationery, with some examples of official letterhead, including the "Maison / de l'Empereur / Direction Générale / des / Musées Imperiaux / Salon de 1857" [Emperor's House / General Direction of the Imperial Museums, Salon of 1857]. Several docketed, a few bearing wax seals. Expected wear including minor paper folds, light toning, and edge chipping. Else near fine. Average size 5.25" x 8.25".


The Exposition des Beaux-Arts of 1857 was a significant one within the long history of the Parisian salon. A number of artists' works were submitted and summarily rejected from the salon that year, prompting criticism that the juried art competition was undemocratic. This was an ironic complaint to lodge against an Emperor. Yet Napoleon III, in response to the public outrage, authorized the formation of a parallel exhibition called the Salon des Refusés [Salon of Rejects] in 1863. (Many Impressionists would soon find a sympathetic reception there.) A few rising stars whose work was displayed at the Exposition des Beaux-Arts of 1857 included Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), revolutionary Realist painter, and Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), future sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. The Exposition des Beaux-Arts of 1857 was also the first salon to exhibit photographs; there were 9 submissions, or less than 1% of the number of total works submitted.


The Exposition des Beaux-Arts of 1857 took place at the Louvre, where the many-windowed and high-ceilinged gallery spaces permitted lots of space and natural light. Sculptural submissions were exhibited both inside and outside in an adjacent English style garden. Louis Auvray, the Secretary of the Salon's Central Committee of Artists, provided a contemporary authoritative account of the Salon. (See attached title page for reference.) Over 1,450 exhibitors (of whom approximately 200 artists were foreign) submitted 3,483 works to the Salon. Submissions ranged from paintings, sculpture, engraved metal, architecture, and interior decoration, to engravings, lithographs, pastels, watercolors, drawings, and miniatures on enamel or porcelain. In the largest category, painting (of which there were over 2,700 individual submissions), pieces were subdivided by subject into portraits, landscapes, seascapes, historical paintings, genre paintings, and animal studies.


For the fortunate artists whose works were exhibited at the official Salon, there were still many obstacles. The bulk of our archive consists of complaint letters written by salon artists, their family members, and influential friends unhappy with the placement of artistic submissions. Artists jockeyed for the best possible placement of their works within the myriad of galleries. The room was important, as we shall see, as well as the work's placement within that room, line of vision, lighting, etc. The more advantageous display of masterpieces could increase chances of winning prizes or gaining fame. Other letters also recommend certain artists, like two of that season's leading painters, Louis Matout and Horace Vernet. Taken as a whole, then, the archive gives us tremendous insight into the mid-nineteenth-century art world. The most important decisionmaker seemed to be Philippe de Chennevieres, who one correspondent called "the Jupiter of this Olympus" (July 13, 1857 ALS).


Selected Excerpts


Emile Thunot (publisher/printer) to Philippe de Chennevieres:


"M. Cotte, one of my good friends, submitted two pieces of sculpture to the Jury in charge of appraising works destined for the Exposition. The first is a Holy Virgin draped in the Oriental style; the second, that I will take the liberty of recommending to your kindly attention, is a young boy from Rif (Morocco) playing with rabbits." (May 11, 1857)


Armand Dumarest (painter) to Philippe de Chennevieres:


"I can say, Monsieur, that I occupy the most disadvantageous position of the entire exposition. Several people who have gone to find my painting have all told me that it is impossible to see it and judge it because of the bad light that reflects everywhere…That is a considerable wrong to me, having always been well placed in previous expositions." (June 26, 1857)


Edouard Thierry (artist's brother) to Philippe de Chennevieres:


"I went to the Exposition yesterday and searched without being able to find my brother's sole painting. I wasn't too surprised about this misfortune. It is typical for me. When there is some corner outside of the Exposition, it is there, in general, where they place my brother's paintings. I know well what you are going to say. You find that this is not a good recommendation, always being so badly placed. This is a curse if you merit [being otherwise]. I would think so if my brother wasn't already a good landscape artist among painters, and the first landscape artist among those decorating the Opéra Comique and the Opéra." (July 3, 1857)


Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Guillemet (painter) to Philippe de Chennevieres:


"I come, Monsieur, to beg you to want to become involved in the change that has taken place for two of my small paintings, 1265 and 1267. The first (Triumph of Cupid) currently placed on the last row of the Gallery of Drawings and Lithos., the second a (panel of five small portraits) finds itself relegated to the back of the room where the Loterie de l'Orient is located!" [the Loterie de l'Orient was a fundraising sale for Army families]


Charles-Louis Vielcazal (artist) to Philippe de Chennevieres:


"Having exhibited a Painting under No. 2656 which is placed in very unfavorable conditions relative to its dim aspect and the small dimensions of its figures, I would deem myself very flattered if by your happy influence I could profit by having the painting moved from its current position." (July 22, 1857)


Marquis de Mortemart (court official) to Philippe de Chennevieres:


"I beg you to not move the painting. I make the same prayer for the Christ of Lefebvre, to whom I promised I would intercede." (n.d.)


Marquis de Mortemart (court official) to Philippe de Chennevieres:


"The Bon Sérurier strongly recommends a painting by M. de Frenne [Emile Defrenne] commissioned by the Emperor and representing the Maréchal Sérurier burning enemy flags at Invalides. It seems that this painting was not extraordinarily well placed." (n.d.)


Philippe de Chennevieres was an art collector, art historian, writer, and museum curator. Between 1853-1870, de Chennevieres oversaw official Salon and Salon des Réfusés exhibitions. He also supervised the exhibition of fine art at the Expositions Universelles of 1855 and 1867. De Chennevieres served as curator at the Louvre and the Musée du Luxembourg. His private collection of 3,600 French drawings executed between 1600-1860 was highly prized.


This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


Item: 66467

Price: $1,200.00
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