Abstract aesthetic values were way beyond the public who purchased Salon art which finally died out at the beginning of the twentieth-century, Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon being the coup de grace. But before, a long run of the French salon, and its English, European and American equivalents depended on tested recipes and certain romantic or sentimental anecdotes to drive the narrative. Between 1800 and 1900 over a quarter million of such paintings were given official exposition in France alone and most of them were bad or at best inconsequential.
Essentially this art appealed to the vanity of the observer, assuring them of their cultivation and depth of understanding of the human heart and its most profound motivations. Pathetic fallacies for the most part, with some exceptions; a few artists like William Powell Frith for example, who were able to represent a loving observation of the world that was flowering elsewhere in impressionism.
THE BLIND FLOWER GIRL’S SONG
Buy my flowers, O buy, I pray!
The blind girl comes from afar;
If the earth be as fair as I hear them say,
These flowers her children are!
Do they her beauty keep?
They are fresh from her lap, I know,
For I caught them fast asleep
In her arms an hour ago.
Ye have a world of light,
Where love in the loved rejoices;
But the blind girl’s home is the house of night,
And its beings are empty voices.
Come buy, — buy, come buy! —
Hark! how the sweet things sigh
(For they have a voice like ours)
O buy — O buy the flowers!
“I must have that bunch of violets, sweet Nydia,” said Glaucus, “your voice is more charming than ever.”
The blind girl started forward as she heard the Athenian’s voice; then as suddenly paused, while a blush of timidity flushed over neck, cheeks, and temples.
“So you are returned!” she said in a low voice.
“Yes, child, I have not been at Pompeii above a few days. My garden wants your care, you will visit it, I trust, to-morrow, and mind, no garlands at my house shall be woven by any hands but those of the pretty Nydia.”
Nydia smiled joyously but did not answer; and Glaucus, placing in his breast the violets he had selected, turned gaily and carelessly from the crowd.
Though of gentle birth, for her cradle was rocked at the foot of Olympus, Nydia had been sold when quite young to Burbo, a gladiator of the amphitheater. She was cruelly treated by the wife of Burbo….