Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Rose-Carol Washton Long

Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


artist group, Exhibition venue, group dynamics, Joséphin Péladan, Rosicrucian, Salons of the Rose + Croix


A variety of alternative Salons arose in France following the demise of the official Salon. Within this phrenetic climate for alternative exhibition venue creation, Joséphin Péladan founded the Salons of the Rose + Croix (1892-1897). He framed the Salons as ideologically unified exhibitions at which idealized works focusing on spirituality, tradition, and beauty would engender social reform by encouraging a decadent society to focus on timeless poetic and mystical ideas. Nevertheless, in practice the Rose + Croix functioned mainly as an exhibition venue for artists whose work only loosely responded to the established platform. The exhibited works reveal some overlap with Péladan's mystical, idealized, and reformist aims, yet even the central ten exhibitors deviated from the leader's published mandates in myriad ways, showing that the Rose + Croix was not an ideologically united group.

I determine the ten central exhibitors with statistical analysis of the salon catalogs and fifty contemporary reviews, moving beyond anecdotal considerations to base my conclusions on the ideas and production of the group's main affiliates.

Péladan's principles are clearly those of a writer attempting to direct artists. Rarely discussing specific techniques, he usually focused on subject matter and conceptual frameworks. The exhibiting artists built on many of his broader ideas, developing anti-naturalist methods to express their focus on eternal, mystical Ideas. Nevertheless, contemporary reviews and critical writings by Péladan and the artists reveal divergences between the platform and implementation in terms of: the relationship between art and life, the transformation of nature, and the influence of history and earlier artistic movements. Additionally, the artists associated with the group incorporated a range of religious and scientific--or pseudo-scientific--influences into their works, combining Catholic, Rosicrucian, and theosophical principles with optical science and psychology, especially theories about hysteria. The depictions of women and the highly varied literary illustrations and themes reveal that even in areas where Péladan issued specific guidelines, the exhibited works often deviated from his principles. The group also expressed conflicting attitudes toward women because at least five female artists exhibited works at the Salon--violating a central group tenet that outlawed women's participation.