Salon des Indépendants 

In 1884 a group of young artists, after years of frustration, formed the Société des Artistes Indépendants whose aim was to break free from the suffocating constraints of the government sponsored, official Salon which was dominated by conservative painters who packed the jury rejecting any submissions which did not conform to their rigid conventional, ‘academic’ standards.

The new group decided to follow in the footsteps of the Impressionists and challenge the monopoly of the Salon by organising their own annual exhibitions, announcing that there would be ‘No Jury nor Awards’ and for the next three decades the annual Salon des Indépendants offered an outlet for progressive art. Their huge exhibitions featured a great variety of styles but from the start the Neo-impressionists were afforded considerable prominence perhaps because Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were influential founding members of the society. Other founding members included Paul Cézanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Odilon Redon and the future Neo-impressionists Charles Angrand and Albert Dubois-Pillet who wrote the statutes of the society.

Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières was exhibited at the first Salon des Indépendants held between May 15 and July 1, 1884. The Society went on to organise many memorable annual exhibitions featuring works by Matisse and the Fauves, Picasso, Braque and the Cubists and the plethora of later movements in this most fecund of periods between the late eighteen eighties and 1914 – the Belle Epoque.

Text by Geoffrey Smith