"The first exhibition of the Societe Anonyme des Artistes (Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs etc.) was held at 35 boulevard des Capucines, in what had until recently been the studios of Nadar, the photographer. A flight of stairs led directly from the street to the rooms, the walls of which were covered in red - a color favored by Nadar. Admission cost 1 franc, and the catalogue (edited by Renoir's brother Edmond) 50 centimes. The exhibition, which ran from April 15th till May 15th, was open not only during the daytime but, as a gesture to the working classes, from 8.00 to 10.00 in the evenings. Despite the significance of the event for the history of art, the primary purpose of the organizers was not so much to promote a new style of painting as to escape the constraints of the Salon and to give the artists an opportunity to show their work freely, without the interference of a jury or any State involvement.

"The society had been constituted as a 'societe anonyme' (a limited liability company) open to anyone prepared to pay 60 francs a year. Each artist was entitled to have two pictures hung - though this rule was not adhered to. All members had equal rights and could participate in the election of the committee of fifteen members. Originally the Impressionists intended to publish a journal, but this ambition was not realized until 1877. To cover expenses, a commission of 10 per cent was levied on sales. Exhibits were to be grouped in alphabetical order of artists' names, according to size, and hung no more than two rows deep. The hanging was in the hands of a committee chaired by Renoir, who did most of the work himself as other members failed to turn up.

"There were 165 works in the exhibition, including five oil paintings and seven pastels by Monet; four oils, two pastels and three watercolors by Morisot; six oil paintings and one pastel by Renoir; ten works by Degas; five by Pissarro; three by Cezanne; and three by Guillaumin. Some of the pictures were on loan, including Cezanne's Modern Olympia, Morisot's Hide and Seek (owned by Manet) and two Sisley landscapes that had been bought by Durand-Ruel. Works exhibited that are well known today included Degas' At the Races in the Country, Monet's Impression: Sunrise and his Boulevard des Capucines, Morisot's The Cradle, Pissarro's The Orchard painted in 1872 and Renoir's La Loge.

"The majority of the participants were not connected with the so-called Batignolles group and had been recruited by one or other of the sixteen founding members, Degas being especially active in this respect. Most of these 'outsiders' were regular exhibitors at the Salon. Some of the subscribers to the society did not participate.

"There were 175 visitors on the first day of the exhibition and 54 on the last, the total attendance being around 3500. Nor was the exhibition disastrous from a selling point of view, although some exhibitors had pitched their prices too high Pissarro wanted 1000 francs for The Orchard and Monet asked the same for Impression: Sunrise, neither of which sold. Admittedly Sisley sold a landscape for 1000 francs, but that may well have been the result of a maneuver by Durand-Ruel. The sum that accrued to the society from the 10 per cent commission on sales amounted to 360 francs, which implies that 3600 francs worth of pictures were sold. It is known that Monet received a total of 200 francs, Renoir 180 francs and Pissarro 130 francs, while Cezanne got 300 francs for his House of the Hanged Man. Although Renoir failed to achieve the 500 francs he wanted for La Loge, later he managed to sell it for 450 francs to Pere Martin, a small-time dealer and loyal supporter of the group. Neither Morisot nor Boudin sold anything, nor did Degas (most of his works, however, were lent).

"The accounts showed that the expenses of the exhibition came to 9272 francs and the receipts 10,221 francs, leaving 949 francs profit, to which were notionally added 2360 francs due in unpaid shares. As a commercial venture it was a failure: the amount the members received was not even sufficient to cover their dues, and Cézanne had to ask his father for money to pay what he owed.