Hanging Pictures Salon-Style


UPDATE, 4/29/13: I’ve recently added more art and moved the pictures closer together on my salon-style wall, above. It’s much more successful now, I think, with less air between them.

PRODUCTIVE WEEK SO FAR, settling in to my Prospect Heights pied-a-terre. With the help of a friend, I carried out a plan to hang pictures “salon style,” covering a wall from top to bottom — an assortment of original art and prints acquired over the years at antiques shops and estate sales, mostly. (That’s it, above, though in need of further refinement, not to mention straightening).

Only later did I realize I was sub-consciously trying to emulate the Barnes Foundation, which I visited for the first time in August. That’s the incredible collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art soon to be rudely displaced from its longtime home, below, in a Neo-Classical mansion just outside Philadelphia, to a new site on Benjamin Franklin Parkway that’s almost certain to be more sterile and institutional. I’ve even copied the yellow walls, though the art I couldn’t copy: Albert Barnes had Modiglianis, Cezannes, Renoirs, etc., up the wazoo, and interspersed his paintings with collected metal objects and African sculpture.


The so-called salon style of picture-hanging goes back centuries in European tradition, long before the contemporary gallery style — hanging art in horizontal eye-level rows — came into being.

Monet’s dining room at Giverny, below, another contributor to my current infatuation with yellow, has art hung salon-style in the far corner.


The picture below, from Apartment Therapy, makes me feel I ought to have even more pictures and hang them closer together.


Read more about salon style in this article from Portland Monthly:

For two centuries or more, art was enjoyed salon-style, with big and small pieces mixed together and displayed from floor to ceiling. In European museums, art often is still shown this way.The term “salon-style” derives from the famed Parisian art school École des Beaux-Arts, which, in the mid-17th century, began to exhibit the paintings of graduating students in huge public shows.

The era’s artistry, of course, is now mostly relegated to the Louvre, but the style of hanging pictures is again fashionable in galleries, museums, and especially homes. There are really no rules; all it takes is a good eye—or more to the point, confidence in your eye.

I don’t know about confidence, but I do know it helped to lay the pictures out on the sofa in rough approximation of the proposed arrangement, and to start at the bottom, using the sofa back as a guide to a more-or-less even line. Then we just winged it. The OCD part of me is driven a little crazy by the inconsistency of the negative space between pictures and the desire to constantly straighten them (don’t they sell some sticky thing you can put on the backs of pictures to prevent their moving around?) Still, there’s something very satisfying about a methodology that allows you to get all your art up there in one fell swoop.