I have attempted in the construction of my Salon to stay as faithful as I could to the original meaning, purpose, and organization of a typical Salon of the Enlightenment Period. I emphasized the aspect of the Salon as a place where thinkers could get together and express or apply their own philosophy freely. A large part of my Salon is made out of quotes from both thinkers and artists on specific paintings or painters, or on the role of art in general. I made this choice because it seemed to be consistent with my role as a Salonnière. A Salonnière, indeed, is there to frame the discussion, to decide of the themes, the topics, the questions, and in this case, the artworks exhibited, that will be bediscussed and taken on, as well as the "guest list" and which philosophers she wants to bring together to create a fruitful dialogue.
The Salonnière, however, as we have seen in class, does not directly participate in the discussion but merely acts as a form of authority that enables civilized discussion (which must have been empowering at the time, I believe), what I have called in my introduction, "a Guardian of civilization and Free speech." I have thus selcted works of artists that I believe are revealing of the aesthetic climate of the time, and I have let, in a way, the philosophes argue among themselves and express their opinions based on their own unique philosophy.
Diderot was my most precious source of information and input on the artworks I chose to exhibit as I could, for some of the paintings that he discusses in his Salons of 1765 and 1767, simply select passages that I thought were particularly relevent. As for the other philosophes I have selected, I had to recreate what their response to the artists' works would or could have been.
I chose, thus, to "borrow" the voices of the philosophers, that is imagine how their often abstract concepts on aesthtics and art could apply to paintings of artists from the eighteenth century who, I believed, best emobdied the different currents in the very rich and varied aesthetics that preceded the French Revolutions. I started with the decadent and hedonist style of the Rococo Period with Fragonard and Boucher, following with the moralizinng genre paintings of Chardin and Greuze, and culminating with David's Neo-classicism, with the Oath of the Horatii, which was painted at the eve of the Revolution.
I found that it was in fact very difficult, certainly more difficult than I had imagined, to know with certainty how the Philosophers, given their theories, would have reacted to different paintings, and the short discourses I have created for each of them are only one possibility among many.
What motivated my research mainly, and what I wanted to achieve through this Salon was raising the question of the relationship between technique and abstract ideas, between the idea and the matter, and the function and the form. I found that some thinkers such as Kant or Burke (which I was not able to include in the Salon) had very abstract conceptions on what is beautiful, or what makes an artist successful, while being at the same time extremely grounded in empirical evidence. Montesquieu, and above all, Diderot, on the other hand, were more closely involved in the material aspects of beauty, and relied heavily on practice and the technical aspect of aesthetics in art.
Indeed, Diderot believed that one cannot fully comprehend the complexity of the artist's profession, and must, if he hopes to gain true insight on how the artist can generate sensations of pleasure through an artwork, work very closely along his side and hear him talk about his own art, which, I believe was quite uncommon at the time.
My Salon is a very literal interpretation of the assignment of the "Digital Salon". As I came to be truly fascinated with the concept itself of the Salon, of a discussion amond the influential thinkers of the time and in the case of an Art Salon, a confrontation with what I see, in some cases, as the materialization of different aesthetic concepts onto a canvas, I tried to the best of my abilities to recreate the dialogue between Philosophy and Arts. My goal was to create a place where one can navigate freely among the different conceptions and questions raised by the intellectuals of the Enlightenment and represent some of the major directions the aesthetic theory took during the Enlightenment.