Salon Art

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Salon Art


art marked by vapidity, banality, and superficial beauty. The term “salon art” is most frequently applied to pictorial art, although it is used occasionally in reference to other plastic arts and to literature and music. Becoming current in the second half of the 19th century, the term originally designated the type of art that was supported by the jury of the Paris Salon, approved by the authorities, and accepted by the bourgeois public. Later, having absorbed other negative nuances of the word “salon,” it became a designation for everything in art that appeals to philistine tastes and is a commercialization of authentic artistic values.

Owing to its origin during the period of capitalist expansion throughout the world and the widening of the circle of art “consumers,” salon art seeks to conform to the philistine idea of beauty. It flatters the philistines with idealized representations or titillates them with artificial and often stilted sentiments, either attracting them by the “authentic” reproduction of nature or, on the contrary, by a mannered distortion of the objective world in keeping with the whims of fashion, which eventually is recognized by philistines as the standard of taste.

At the same time, salon art seeks to direct and form the artistic tastes of the public and to impose on the mass of viewers a universally understandable model—or rather a substitute for art. With the development of the mass media and the expanded possibilities for the mass reproduction and circulation of salon artworks, salon art has been increasingly standardized, becoming a part of mass culture.

The inevitable hallmarks of salon art—an eclectic creative and formal approach, deliberate “beguiling” effects, and a lack of stylistic consistency on the part of technically dexterous artists—place this concept outside the limits of any particular epoch, style, or trend. Rooted in academicism, which combined the late decadent tendencies of classicism and romanticism, and sustained by naturalism, salon art furnishes a vulgar version, with pretensions to refinement, of any succeeding trend in figurative art.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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