Salon Artists. The Triennial Art Salons of Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent (1815-1900)
In the nineteenth century, public art exhibitions became the main place where artists could show and sell their work to the public. The Paris Salon is particularly well known, but similar sales exhibitions were also organized in other places and countries. In the Southern Netherlands, Ghent was the first city to organize an exhibition in 1792, followed by Brussels in 1811. When in 1813 Antwerp also initiated its own salon, the government decided that the organization had to be structured differently and the system of the triennial salon was introduced. The first Triennial Salon took place in 1815 in Brussels, and alternated throughout the nineteenth century between Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. At the salons, artists, critics, patrons, dealers and government officials gain together to discuss concepts about artists and art. Furthermore, the well-attended public exhibitions created an opportunity for a diverse group of Belgians to view and form opinions about works of art. Also, the salons were important events for stimulating cultural and artistic life in Belgium in general, and for the hosting cities in particular. Through different case studies, this research examines the impact of the Triennial Art Salons on the careers of various artists throughout the nineteenth century. Main questions are: what exactly was the role of and how important were these exhibitions in an artist's career? Why did they choose to show or not to show their work at the salon? To which extent could the salon break or make an artists' career? Did the Triennial Salons fulfill a different function for different artists (man/woman, young/old, Belgian/foreign, etc.)?