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Masterpieces of the Paris Salon from the Musée d’Orsay
until January 28, 2018

Kunsthalle München

In the nineteenth century, the annual "Salon de Paris" was the most important art exhibition in the world and a social event par excellence. Featuring over one hundred paintings, sculptures, drawings, and applied art objects from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the exhibition shows how the classical tradition in art encountered modern life:

The Paris Salon was a venerable institution. Established by Louis XIV (1638–1715), the exhibition was meant as a venue at which the members of the royal art academy could present their works. The jurists remained committed to the traditional academic point of view: works of art were supposed to express the good and true in the form of ideal beauty.

For the longest time,  artists were required to prove their technical expertise, in particular with large-format, highly ambitious depictions of ancient mythology, biblical scenes, and historical events. But what significance could the beautiful goddesses and noble heroes of this so-called history painting still have for the modern individual in the Industrial Age? The classical ideal and modern life came into conflict. History painting had to be renewed.

Against this conflicted background, world-famous painters of the day, such as Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904), Alexandre Cabanel (1823–1889), or William Bouguereau (1825–1905), created works that were celebrated at the Paris Salon but also the subject of controversial debate. The artists succeeded in linking the old tradition with the Zeitgeist. Their originals were collected around the world; more affordable reproductions sold in droves among the middle class. Never before had artworks achieved such popularity and range.

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Fig.: Edouard Théophile Blanchard (1844-1879), Narziss, um 1870, 64 x 168 cm, Öl / Leinwand, Musée d’Orsay © bpk | RMN – Grand Palais | Patrice Schmidt.


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