The Salon exhibitions were the Paris equivalent of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions in London. They were the principal forum for the display of contemporary art throughout Manet's career, were visited by around half a million people a year and discussed at length by many art critics.
"The painting that filled the Salon was then... no less degenerate than its counterpart in England. Anecdotic costume-pieces alternated with bondieu-series and idealized nudes. Meissonier, Bougereau and Cabanel, the favourite practitioners, achieved a licked quality that gave their canvases the admired finish of waxworks or of Alma-Tademas."
Raymond Mortimer, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Percy Lund, London