Salonnieres in New York?

Oh, how antiquated! Those intellectuals gathered around a book, in this 1728 painting Reading from Moliere by Jean Francois de Troy, are so period in their gowns and ‘avant garde’ literary tastes. It’s charming to witness the interchange of ideas between cultured people, even in oils, and the history of the Parisian salon is even more charming.

Salons were free and easy gatherings where social status was less important than conversation and intellect. Dominated by the women that hosted them, salons were a chance for cultured women to meet men as their equals. In some fashion, salons have been hosted in urban centers such as Paris, London, and Rome since the 1600s and produced no end on stimulating conversation and interesting ideas. Charming, but hardly in touch with this modern age of speed and technology, where people need never meet in person, no?

In fact, no. This afternoon I am attending, of all things, a salon hosted by the lovely Helene Forbes devoted to the discussion of the arts. Who comes? Artists, writers, enthusiasts and all sorts who like discussing recent exhibitions, galleries, gossip and a general love of the arts.

What a delightful afternoon! I’ll have to channel Gertrude Stein, whose brilliant conversation attracted the Cubist and experimental artist and writers, among them Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Juan Gris, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway to her salon, which was probably the last one of note in Paris. Here’s to a New York revival of the salon tradition.

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