In 1863 a fascinating exhibition was held in Paris of paintings rejected by the official French Salon, notorious for its conservative, myopic and academic views in both subject matter and techniques. Labeled the Salon des Refuses, the exhibition, “represented one of the most decisive moments in the development of modern art. Fundamentally, this landmark exhibition brought into focus the very question of jury decisions, criteria for public exhibitions, and whether the State art establishment had the right to prohibit works from being shown if they were not fully in accord with its own changing aesthetic ideals” (Hauptman1985, p. 95).
Cézanne, Pissarro, Whistler, and Manet were among the artists exhibiting paintings. My favorite painting in this exhibition is Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the grass), an innovative and iconoclastic work that challenged the accepted wisdom of perspective, shadows, and techniques, and not to mention subject matter. Indeed the painting’s “inflammatory content and strange construction tacitly challenged Aristotle’s logic and Euclid’s space, and called into question an entire paradigm built upon reason and perspective” (Shlain 1991, p. 104).
Although I am not an art historian, my understanding of the 1863 Salon des Refuses exhibition is that it paved the wave for impressionismto develop, as well as other radical and innovative types of art and techniques of painting, and was “the beginning of modern art” (Shlain 1991, p. 102).
I like the term Salon des Refuses. I like what it represents in art history. I like its refusal to acquiesce to established academic authority. I like its iconoclastic spirit and its inspiration to all who don’t want to be constricted by established dogma.
Can we use the term somewhere and somehow in the burgeoning domain of Real World Economics? Perhaps to identify our specific ideas and works rejected by the neoclassical establishment? Perhaps in recognition that all of us are ‘members’ of the Salon des Refuses? Perhaps as a clarion call for the public to heed what we are doing? Perhaps as our own imprimatur that pluralism, tolerance and diversity eventually succeeds? Perhaps as encouragement and inspiration for future artists, social scientists that it is ideas that matter, and not rigid acceptance to dogma?
Hauptman, William. (1985) “Juries, Protests, and Counter-Exhibitions before 1850.” The Art Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 1, pp. 95-109.
Shlain, Leonard. (1991) Art & Physics—Parallel Visions in Space, Time and Light. Perennial, New York.