Parting Thought on the Salons of 1879 and 1880
As a young thirty-year-old in late 1849, Melville’s only opportunity to see a variety of world-class artworks came on the voyage to England and the Continent during which he visited the principal picture galleries of London during his six weeks in that city, the Louvre and Versailles during his one week in Paris, and the Cologne Cathedral during his one full day in that city.
As a thirty-eight-year-old early in 1857, returning from his voyage to the eastern Mediterranean, Melville explored masterworks of Italian painting and architecture for two full months in Italy before crossing the Alps and briefly sampling museums in Germany and the Netherlands and then visiting the National and Turner Galleries in London.
When Melville landed in New York City on the way back home to Pittsfield in May 1857, that city was just beginning to overcome its reputation as a pictorial desert, full of fake European Old Masters, that Melville had satirized in Pierre in 1852 (NN P 349-50). In 1857, M. Knoedler and Company, which had succeeded Goupil and Company at 366 Broadway, hosted the first exhibition of French paintings in America. Soon after, the printsellers Williams, Stevens, and Williams exhibited Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair at 353 Broadway. Also in 1857, the National Academy of Design, at Broadway and Tenth Street, held its own pioneering exhibition British and French paintings (Barratt, 70-74, 79-80). By 1865, the National Academy of Design had moved into a new building at 23rd and Park Avenue, its Gothic Renaissance architecture inspired by the Ducal Palace in Venice (fig. 1).