Friday, December 28, 2012

To the Salon

Artists in nineteenth century Paris had to find a way to transport their paintings to the Salon exhibition. Some rented handcarts or hired a man to carry the painting on his back. Others carried them aboard the horse-drawn omnibuses.

The paintings were often still wet, which made the passage a bit hazardous both for the paintings and for the other occupants of the 'bus. Portraits sometimes arrived with smudged noses. 

According to Edouard Cucuel, "The proletarian vehicles contained art,—art by the ton. The upper decks of the omnibuses were crowded with artists carrying their pictures because they could not afford more than the three-sous fare. And such an assortment of artists! There were some in affluent circumstances, who rolled along voluptuously in cabs on an expenditure of thirty-five francs, holding their precious tableaux and luxuriantly smoking cigarettes."
Bohemian Paris of Today by Eduoard Cucuel, p. 72


Ashok said...

Another version of "en charrette"?

Tom Hart said...

This is an aspect of the golden Salon age that had never crossed my mind. What a fascinating series of images. I've always wished I could be a fly on the wall on "varnishing day", when artists could make last minute changes and repair those smudged noses. I wonder too, how much actual varnishing went on.

James, have you run across any films or novels that (more or less) successfully portray the artist's life in that day?

James Gurney said...

Tom, I'd recommend the Cucuel book linked at the end of the post: "Bohemian Paris of To-Day." It's also available as a free downloadable Google book, with lots of pen and ink illustrations. It vividly describes what it's like to be an art student in the ecoles and cafes.