Saturday, June 16, 2012

Salon des Refusés

If you've dabbled in art history, you may have a vague recollection of the Salon des Refusés. It was, as the name implies, an exhibition of rejects. It was also one of the defining moments of modernism.

The Salon des Refusés was held in 1863 and featured artworks that were rejected by the Académie des Beaux-Arts' official Paris Salon Exhibition. It was set up under the order of Emperor Napoleon III after many people publicly questioned the legitimacy of the selection process. The Emperor, wishing to assuage the critics, offered up his now famous solution; let the public decide!

On April 24th the Moniteur universel contained the following notice: ‘Numerous complaints have reached the Emperor on the subject of works of art which have been refused by the jury of the Exhibition. His Majesty, wishing to let the public judge the legitimacy of these complaints, has decided that the rejected works shall be exhibited in another part of the Palais de l'Industrie. This Exhibition will be voluntary, and artists who do not wish to participate need only inform the administration of the exhibition, which will hasten to return their works to them.’

The rest, as they say, is art history. The most famous of the rejected works in the exhibition was Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe. Other artists that participated in the Salon des Refusés included Pissaro, Whistler, Fantin-Latour, and Cezanne. In retrospect, the Salon des Refusés is understood as a watershed moment in Western art; highlighting in the most public of ways the fissure between the "approved" academic approach to painting and the more freewheeling style of the early modernists.
Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe

Today the term Salon des Refusés is often used more generically to refer to any exhibition that features works that were rejected by official jurors. It's in that spirit that I offer now my own personal, internet age Salon des Refusés.

This year I submitted two paintings for inclusion into the Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition. Both were rejected. If you've ever been curious about what rejection looks like from the artist's perspective, it typically goes something like this:

Thank you for submitting your entry for the above division and class. Unfortunately, your entry was not accepted for further judging. Please contact the entry office with any questions.

And if you're curious about what rejected work looks like, the two paintings below were the ones I submitted:

At Anchor (After Stieglitz) #7

At Anchor (After Stieglitz) #5

I've got a couple beautiful Hackman Frames for them, so if I ever do get a chance to show them they're going to look fantastic! Until then, they'll remain in the drawer. That is unless someone decides to organize an exhibition of works rejected by the State Fair.


***UPDATE*** Both of these paintings have subsequently sold. One was purchased at the Ohio Art League's "One Night" auction. The other sold at the 2012 "Art for Life" auction.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Making The Grade

So, I'm taking a continuing education class at the Columbus College of Art Design (CCAD). Me and 15 other brave souls will be meeting weekly throughout June and July to unravel the mysteries of oil painting. According to the syllabus, we'll complete two painting during the course of our term. No promises were made regarding the quality of the completed paintings. Seriously though, I'm really excited about this.

That might sound strange considering I've already got a Bachelor's degree in painting and drawing. The truth is I've never felt particularly confident about my ability to paint. Perhaps more to the point, I never felt like I really learned how to paint. Oh, I had some great instructors. I learned a lot about art and expression and theory. Those are all important things, but when it came right down learning how to paint - in the classical sense - well, we weren't really taught like that at my alma mater.

This being my first continuing education class, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I'm happy to report that CCAD has this business down to a science. Selecting classes, registering for classes and paying for classes is a breeze online. Parking is easy, and we were even issued access cards to get into our building. At first I was concerned because I didn't get any kind of supply list ahead of time. It turns out that's because supplies are included! Everything we needed was is in the studio and laid out for us when we arrived.

For the first session we had a brief lecture on the basics of color theory, light, modeling, and depth. Then the instructor gave a short demo. After that he had us tint our canvas with an acrylic wash and begin working on compositional sketches. Once we roughed out an idea of the composition, we used gamsol and raw umber to create our imprimatura (that's the fancy word for the underpainting). This is how my painting looked at the end of class. 

The idea behind this way of painting is that once you get the values down (that's light and dark) then you can start building with color. I was happy with my progress, but I'm a little worried about having to paint the plaster bust. Faces are hard to paint, even plaster ones!

Perhaps most importantly, I'm really excited about our instructor. His name is Brent Payne. I've seen his work around and I appreciate his sense of color. He obviously knows his stuff and is clearly good with the students. He spent time with each of us and offered lots of practical tips.

Below is a painting of garlic he did. It reminds me a little of Manet's asparagus paintings and a little of Morandi's still lifes. I expect he'll have a lot to offer the students.

 I think I might learn to paint after all!