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Nine days of impressionism: April 15, 1874, the Salon des intransigeants

This article is taken from the Figaro Hors-série Paris 1874, Impressionisme, soleil levant, a special issue published one hundred and fifty years after the first impressionist exhibition commemorated by the Musée d'Orsay which brought together, in a striking face-to-face, a wide selection of works which were then revealed to the public.

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Nine days of impressionism: April 15, 1874, the Salon des intransigeants

This article is taken from the Figaro Hors-série Paris 1874, Impressionisme, soleil levant, a special issue published one hundred and fifty years after the first impressionist exhibition commemorated by the Musée d'Orsay which brought together, in a striking face-to-face, a wide selection of works which were then revealed to the public. To be kept up to date with historical and cultural news, subscribe free of charge to the Lettre du Figaro Histoire.

Before the war, with Bazille and Renoir, Monet was already talking about founding a society of artists that would organize exhibitions open to “all workers.” Oh, not to build a chapel around an aesthetic vision common to all its members, but more pragmatically out of economic interest, to ensure sales, which are difficult without visibility offered. To replace, in some way, the art dealer as well as the official Salon, which holds them in high regard. The Third Republic has given itself the mission of restoring moral order and is restricting access to the Salon more than ever: positive and moralizing history is all they love.

At the direction of Fine Arts, Charles Blanc was already severe. With Philippe de Chennevières, whom Mac Mahon appointed at the end of 1873, it would be even worse. Disgusted, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley and Degas even gave up applying for the Salon of 1873. Not even for the Salon des Refusés, which was opened by a masterful petition. And then, prices drop and their merchant, Paul Durand-Ruel, himself begins to suffer. On May 7, 1873, Monet opened up about this project to the journalist and writer Paul Alexis, who became their spokesperson in L'Avenir national. On December 27, they filed the statutes of a limited company of painters, sculptors, engravers, scribbled on a corner of the table at the Guerbois café on the model of a corporation of bakers from Pontoise. They, that is to say in particular Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas and Berthe Morisot. Manet did not want to join them, he who was never completely refused at the Salon, a field of struggle but a royal road, which he still hoped to conquer. We had to find a place, and we thought of Nadar's old workshops, where they would feel at home. Above all very well placed, boulevard des Capucines, one of the busiest points in Paris. This is all the more important as the competition will be tough: in addition to the official Salon, the exhibition of the Society of Friends of the Arts of Paris and of the works of Chintreuil will be held at the École des beaux-arts at the same time. arts, and that of the Alsatians-Lorraines.

Also read: Michel De Jaeghere: “Impressionism, an aesthetic revolution in the shadow of the old masters”

They arrange the space like a private gallery, in seven or eight rooms spread over two floors, the walls hung with red-brown wool, the lighting generous and careful. It was Renoir who was responsible for hanging the one hundred and sixty-seven works, a delicate task which took him several days. Unlike the Salon where the works are piled up to the ceiling, they are there “exhibited in excellent light and placed only in one or two rows, which facilitates the appreciation of connoisseurs”. Renoir did not succeed in satisfying everyone. Pissarro complained that it would have been more egalitarian (his obsession!) to draw lots or vote for the place of each canvas. They printed posters, a catalog sold for 50 cents, hired town sergeants to guarantee the order of the event. Entrance is 1 franc. Ah! how feverish they are, on the evening of April 15, when the doors to their exhibition finally open. Will it be a triumph? Or a shot in the water…

There is everything there, and not just the outdoors, lots of canvases but also sculptures, terracottas, watercolors since the company wants to be open to all techniques. Bracquemond's prints are one of its jewels; his “unfinished” page from The Locomotive, based on Rain, Steam and Speed, by Turner, a masterpiece. Le Berceau by Berthe Morisot, so delicate, arouses the admiration of the most hostile critics, while Cézanne's Modern Olympia attracts the wrath. “Today, Sunday, I am on duty at our exhibition,” Latouche wrote to Dr. Gachet on April 26. I'm keeping your Cézanne. I cannot answer for its existence, I fear that it will leave you exhausted. » There is also De Nittis and Zacharie Astruc. Although visitors are relatively numerous, critics are divided. Some severe, others more positive, often mixed. For the satirist Charivari, Louis Leroy looked for a good word, and found it in front of Monet's Impression, Soleil Levant: “Impression, I was sure of it. I also thought, since I'm impressed, there must be some impression in there. » Others consider that they lack education. Berthe's former teacher, appalled, confided to his student's mother: "a pang of heart came over me when I saw your daughter's works in this deleterious environment, I said to myself: 'we don't live with impunity crazy" ". What worries those who will soon be called the Impressionists more are sales, which are poor. Boudin, Degas and even Berthe Morisot sold nothing. And all the costs incurred are far from being compensated. On December 17, the members of the Society unanimously decided to liquidate it. The best antidote to any disillusionment, Manet and Renoir came to Monet's house in Argenteuil in August to remake the world and paint together, while marveling at what the other could do.

Paris 1874. Impressionism, rising sun, Le Figaro Special Edition. €14.90, available on newsstands and on Figaro Store.

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