(noun) - Salon, from the French word salon (a living room or parlor), means a conversational gathering. Usually, this is a select group of intellectuals, artists, and politicians who meet in the private residence of a socially influential (and often wealthy) person.
Numerous wealthy women have presided over salons in France and England since the 17th century. The American novelist and playwright Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was known for her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris, where Picasso, Matisse, and other creative people would meet to discuss art, literature, politics and, no doubt, themselves.
(noun) - Alternately, the Salon (always with a capital "S") was the official art exhibition sponsored by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The Académie was begun by Cardinal Mazarin in 1648 under the royal patronage of Louis XIV. The royal Académie exhibition took place in the Salon d'Apollon in the Louvre in 1667 and was meant for only members of the Academy.
In 1737 the exhibition was opened to the public and held annually, then biannually (during odd years). In 1748, a jury system was introduced. The jurors were members of the Academy and previous winners of Salon medals.
After the French Revolution in 1789, the exhibition was opened to all French artists and became an annual event again. In 1849, medals were introduced.
In 1863, the Academy exhibited the rejected artists in the Salon des Refusés, which took place in a separate venue.
Similar to our annual Academy Awards for Motion Pictures, the artists who made the cut for that year's Salon counted on this affirmation by their peers to advance their careers. There was no other way to become a successful artist in France until the Impressionists courageously organized their own exhibition outside the authority of the Salon system.
Salon art, or academic art, refers to the official style that the juries for the official Salon deemed acceptable. During the 19th century, the prevailing taste favored the finished surface inspired by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), a Neoclassical painter.
In 1881, the French government withdrew its sponsorship and Société des Artistes Français took over the administration of the exhibition. These artists had been elected by artists who had already participated in the previous Salons. Therefore, the Salon continued to represent the established taste in France and resist the avant-garde.
In 1889, the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts broke away from the Artistes Français and founded their own salon.