Modernist Painting in and around Paris

The city as site, subject, and structure, 1880–1939

Authored by: Ara H. Merjian

The Modernist World

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415845038
eBook ISBN: 9781315778334
Adobe ISBN: 9781317696162


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Enraged at the exclusion of his most ambitious paintings from Paris’s 1855 Exposition Universelle, Gustave Courbet erected next door to the fair his Pavilion of Realism, aimed at defying the academic establishment as brashly as the images displayed therein: ragged peasants and dusty day labourers, weighty with the thick materiality of oil paint, but liberated from the conventions of literary fantasy and quaint genre categories. As successors to Courbet’s engagement with nature, a generation of painters in Paris applied his plein air directness to spaces of urban and suburban leisure rather than labour. Yet for all Impressionism’s benign familiarity to us now, its pioneers met with an institutional hostility as vehement as that which had greeted Courbet. A decade after Courbet’s Pavilion, artistic success still hinged upon admission to the annual Salon put on by the Académie de Beaux Arts. The latter’s rejection of many younger artists from the 1863 exhibition – including Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler – prompted the hasty organization of a concurrent ‘Salon des Refusées’, which soon accrued an anti-academic cachet exceeding even Courbet’s insubordinate precedent.

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