365 Days of Art: May 15 – The Salon des Refusés Opens to the Public

Edouard Manet, Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe/Luncheon on the Grass, 1863

May 15, 1863

The Salon des Refusés (literally, The Exhibition of Rejects), an exhibition of artwork rejected by the annual Paris Salon exhibition, opens to visitors. The exhibition is organized by Napoleon III to quiet his more vocal critics, and probably to prove to the public that they should have trusted the judgment of the Salon’s jury.

The exhibition hosts more than 1,000 visitors per day, with Emile Zola noting that some push to get in. Most of these visitors, as well as the art critics, ridicule the work, to the point where laughter is frequently heard in the galleries. But time will tell: the attention begins to legitimize artists working outside of the accepted channels like the Salon, and at least one work is included that later is recognized as a masterpiece. If you took art history, you definitely learned about this painting: Édouard Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe.