In 1863, the superstars of French painting were: Adolph Bouguereau, Paul Delariche, Alexander Cabanel, Jean-Louise-Ernest Meissonier, and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

They were going to be the artists who would be remembered in 100 years’ time.

The artists who would have galleries and museums dedicated to them.

So how come we never heard of any of them?

It’s the result of thinking that became just a set of rules.

When thinking, in fact, stops being thinking.

In Paris, in 1863, the rules for art were set by the Academie des Beaux Arts.

This was the body that decided what was, and wasn’t, art.

Every year, all artists submitted their work to the Academie des Beaux Arts for judgement.

The Academie des Beaux Arts decided which paintings were worthy of being included in the official exhibition, the annual “Salon”.

If you were selected, like the names above, you were made and your paintings would sell for a fortune.

If not, you were nobody.

But the Academie des Beaux Arts had very strict rules.

All painting must feature precise draughtsmanship, subject matter must be either religious, historical, allegorical, or portraits.

And they should be painted formally, in a studio.

But a group of young painters had begun painting outdoors.

They were actually painting in the open air.

They were painting real, ordinary people doing everyday things.

So the Academie des Beaux Arts refused to show their work.

And in 1863 there were a record number of rejections from the Salon.

It caused an outcry.

So much so, that it was agreed the decision would be vindicated by allowing the rejects to be ridiculed in the “Salon des Refuses”.

But actually this had the opposite effect.

People could see that this new type of art was fresh and exciting.

Full of real life, real colour and real people, not just dead art.

But The Academie des Beaux Arts decreed it wasn’t proper painting at all.

It was merely capturing an impression.

And the term “Impressionism” was born.

In 1874, 30 of those rejected artists had their own exhibition.

Among the rejects were: Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot.

Of course they became the ones who had the galleries dedicated to them.

The ‘rejects’ are remembered and the chosen celebrities are forgotten.

The Academie de Beaux Arts didn’t survive long either.

With the advent of the new wave of modern art, it became redundant.

That’s what happens when a group of people try to dictate behaviour to everyone else.

Just the way advertising thinking is dictated at present.

Conventional wisdom decides what is the only acceptable formula.

Just like the Academie des Beaux Arts, it dictates what can and can’t be done.

And just like the Academie des Beaux Arts it’s suffocating creativity.

I recently read a quote about this in the Financial Times:

“In the long run, an industry hostile to new ideas and talent will either die or be reinvented.”


I think this is overdue to happen to the Academie des Advertising.