Musée d'Orsay: Incoherent Arts : Academy of the Derisory (1882-1893)

Incoherent Arts : Academy of the Derisory (1882-1893)

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes 
 Le pauvre pêcheur [The Poor Fisherman]
 Oil on canvas
 H. 155.5; W. 192.5 cm
 Paris, Musée d'Orsay
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes The Poor Fisherman© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
How do you represent "a minister at the government's ear", or "a criminal stifling the voice of his conscience"  ? Such was the delicate problem the Incohérents set about dealing with. This artistic movement founded by Jules Lévy was born at an auspicious time: in 1881-1882, the annual Salon went through an institutional crisis. The Arts Incohérents, a sort of burlesque and parodical counter-Salon were meant to be both an artistic exhibition and a public entertainment. Seriousness was the Incohérents' enemy.

For more than ten years (1882-1895), personalities of all walks, most of them from the press and the theatre - draughtsmen, journalists, monologists, comedians - were to organise exhibitions that deeply probed, under the cover of humour, the art and morals of their time.

Parodies of famous pieces of art, political and social satire, graphical puns (words interpreted on the first degree, homonymy or homophony), corruption of objects, monochroïds, were at the root of these exhibitions. The public, amused, followed suit. Well-orchestrated advertising campaigns, a benevolent press, cleverly chosen locations contributed to the success of these exhibitions-demonstrations and costume balls - which were meant to be antidotes for the surrounding seriousness and boredom. A century later, what is left of all this  ? A spirit of systematic derision, a questioning of the consecrated values which remain topical today.


Luce Abélès, teacher of literature, literary section, Musée d'Orsay and Catherine Charpin, art historian

25 February - 31 May 1992
Musée d'Orsay

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