Salons

Salons
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A salon is a social gathering usually at the home of a host who is considered to be of high standing in society. Salons have their origin in France and were held in order to converse and also to refine the tastes of those in attendance. The host would invite select politicians, artists and intellectuals to his residence. Participants of the salons usually discussed politics, literature and art among other things. Salons were therefore very important places if an artist wanted his work to be accepted and adopted by people. In France and England, salons were mostly presided by wealthy women. As an artist, it was important to be in the good graces of such women as they could shape the path your artistry took. This is because it is these women who decided the topics to be discussed or the agenda of these social gatherings.
Some of the notable women who held salons in their residences include Gertrude Stein, Madame Abrami, Mademoiselle de Scudéry, Madame Dujarric de La Riviere and Madame de Rambouillet. Salons were very important places especially for budding artists. Artists were invited to such salons and it was an important place to discuss their work. Those who were able to win the hearts and minds of the social elite as well as other artists advanced in their artistic career. Salons were avenues were artists were affirmed by the influential and the powerful in society. Salons were the sure way to advancing an artistic career as one would not only get affirmation that his work was good, he would get wealthy buyers. One of the most famous salons was the 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris and it was usually organized by Gertrude Stein.
Salons were not only organized in France, in Italy some of the notable hostesses included Clara Maffei, Olimpia Rossi Savio and Emilia Peruzzi. Francesco Havez the romantic painter, Giuseppe Verdi the composer and Matilde Serao the naturalist writer were some of the outstanding artists who frequented these salons. Salons offered a place where upcoming artists could meet with those artists who were already established. In Latin America, salons were social gatherings with artistic or literary overtones. The salons in Latin America were held in private drawing rooms and artists were able to share their recent works and creations (Crunden & Robert, p12). In Poland, some of the notable people who organized salons include the duchess Sieniawska and King Stanislaw August Poniatowski. In Sweden, the idea of these social gatherings was introduced by Sophia Elisabet Brenner. The poet Vendela Skytte of Sweden was known to hold salons. In Denmark, notable hostesses included Charlotte Schimmelman and Christine Sophie Holstein. In Germany, the salon allowed Jews and non Jews to mix and discuss philosophy, literature, art or music (Bilski et al, p123). Jewish women who organized these gatherings were well connected and nobles, writers, high civil servants, artists and philosophers were invited. Here artists and patrons exchanged ideas freely something which worked in favor of the artists.
Artists like Matisse and Picasso benefited a lot from salons. They frequented salons in Paris specifically the ones organized by playwright Gertrude Stein at the 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris. Gertrude Stein was a supporter and collector of Matisse’s and Picasso’s work. Through the salons that she hosted, she was able to popularize these two artists. Through these salons, her friends for example Etta and Claribel the Cone sisters became big patrons of both Picasso and Matisse, purchasing hundreds of their drawings and paintings (Levy & Harriet, p34). Gertrude Stein through her salons also promoted Picasso and Matisse because their paintings dominated most of the walls in her house. Guests were therefore introduced to these two artists this way. Picasso and Matisse also became part of her circle and frequented her salons that were organized on the evenings of all Saturdays. Gertrude once remarked that “More and more frequently, people began visiting to see the Matisse paintings—and the Cézannes: Matisse brought people, everybody brought somebody, and they came at any time and it began to be a nuisance, and it was in this way that Saturday evenings began.” (Levy & Harriet, p34). Some of Picasso’s friends who frequented the salons at the 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris include André Derain, poets Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob as well as Henri Rousseau. Through friendships forged in salons, art was able to be developed. For example matisse’s friends who frequented the 27 rue de Fleurus financed a non commercial school called the Académie Matisse in Paris where Matisse taught young artists.
Another such salon was organized by Marie-Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin at the rue Saint-Honoré, her home. Marie Geoffrin turned her home into a meeting place for men of letters or writers and artists from all over the world. She offered advice and criticism to writers and artists who frequented her home. Unlike other salons, when one was invited into her home, the subjects of religion and politics was strictly prohibited. She organized her gatherings on Mondays and Wednesdays. Mondays were reserved for artists while Wednesdays were reserved for writers. Artists like François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Maurice-Quentin de La Tour attended these meetings on Mondays (Aldis & Janet, p87). As hostess she helped stimulate intellectual discussions between those who attended the meetings. Madame Geoffrin was very helpful to artists as she secured contracts for them among collectors from high society. She also commissioned paintings and drawings for herself.
Through salons, commoners were able to interact with the ‘nobility’ of society. This helped to breakdown intellectual as well as social barriers and brought the bourgeois and proletariat together. Many artists of those times were not part of the socially influential but were able through the salons to make some loyal supports and followers of their work. Through salons painting, music, sculpture and dance was given grandeur and those artists who received affirmation were glorified so that their work was placed on a higher rank than others. Since salons were a public symbol of power and status, an artist who was accepted in these salons was held in high regard. Some salons were organized by ‘literary lions’ like Madame Recamier and Madeleine de Scudery. In these salons, the cream of the aristocracy mingled with writers and artists and this gave the works of these artists an air of grandeur.
Through salons all over the world, the development of fine arts was encouraged. Through the discussions that took place in these gatherings, artists were able to disseminate their ideas and were able to become popular not only among the attending audience but beyond. Salons provided a forum through which unknown, emerging artists could be introduced to the high standing people in society. through salons, people’s appreciation of local artists was renewed.

Works Cited
Levy, Harriet L. Paris Portraits: Stories of Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, and Their Circle. Berkeley, Calif: Heyday, 2011. Print.

Crunden, Robert M. American Salons: Encounters with European Modernism, 1885-1917. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Print.

Bilski, Emily D, Emily Braun, and Leon Botstein. Jewish Women and Their Salons: The Power of Conversation. New York: Jewish Museum under the auspices of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2005. Print.

Aldis, Janet. Madame Geoffrin: Her Salon and Her Times, 1750-1777. New York: G.P. Putnam’s sons, 1905. Print.

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