Institutional Changes Surrounding Avant Garde Painting in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Paris

Sophie Shapiro, Union College - Schenectady, NY


The institutions around avant garde painting have evolved from the Academic Salon to a more beneficial commercial gallery system. The Academic Salon in Paris was the highest form of artistic showcase during the eighteenth century. When the Salon began to decline after the French Revolution, the avant garde artists used this opportunity to create new platforms to show their art. Universal Expositions and alternative Salons became centers for avant garde and independent art. Mid nineteenth century France saw the new concept of artistic self promotion, artists like Courbet and Whistler recognized that the Salon could not make their careers but could only promote specific works that could pass through the jury. These artists and their self promotion as well as the end of the Salon, give way to the new prominence of the commercial art dealer who patronized the avant garde. Paul Durand-Ruel, Ambroise Vollard, and Daniel Henry Kahnweiler utilized this new system and each had a new technique on how to patronize their specific artists. These dealers focused on the concept of the oeuvre, creating mutually beneficial contracts, and publishing books and articles to promote their artists. Paul Durand-Ruel was a dealer to the Impressionists, Vollard to the Post Impressionists and the Fauves, Kahnweiler sponsored the Cubists. These dealers advocated for commercial art to be sold to the middle and upper classes.