During the Second Empire, artists not backed by the official Académie de peinture et de sculpture in charge of the exhibits at the annual Salon or without support supplied by actual political constellations had little chance to advance. From year to year the number of artists working in Paris, the number of artists submitting works to the official Salon and the number of works refused by the jury increased, but neither the Second Empire nor the Third Republic found an answer to this situation.
For years, the artists had counted on official support. In 1884, finally, the artists began to organise themselves, and a "Group of independent artists" was authorised by the Ministry of Fine Arts to arrange an exhibition, while the City of Paris agreed to supply rooms for the presentation. So, from May 15 through July 15, the first "free" exhibition of contemporary art showed more than 5000 works by more than 400 artists.
Although sustained by Mesureur, deputy chairman of the Council of Paris and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of France, by Frédéric Hattat, chairman of the Fine Art commission in the same council, by Albert Dubois-Pillet, commanding the Republican Guard, member of the Grand Orient de France, the beginning of the Company, considered as a nest of revolutionaries, were difficult.
Article 1 of the organization's statutes reads,
Members of the Groupe challenged this foundation and succeeded to have an exhibition arranged "for the victims of the recent cholera epidemic", inaugurated December 1, 1884, by Lucien Boué, President of the Paris City Council.
But financially the result was a catastrophe.
Nevertheless, in spring 1885, the "Groupe" organised its next exhibition, this time with some success.
Among the works exhibited were Une Baignade, Asnières by Georges Seurat and Le Pont d’Austerlitz by Paul Signac, and the art of Henri-Edmond Cross, Odilon Redon, Albert Dubois-Pillet, Louis Valtat, Armand Guillaumin, and Charles Angrand.
After World War II, the Salon des Indépendants was renewed with the artist group La Jeune Peinture: Dunoyer de Segonzac, Bernard Buffet, Jean Carzou, Maurice Boitel, Yves Brayer, Aristide Caillaud, Daniel du Janerand, among others.