Huysmans bemoaned the academic mediocrity of the Salons’ most celebrated regulars; never one to mince his words, he wrote that Pierre Lecontre Du Noüy “made the wrong choice of career,” that Henri Gervex “no longer knows how to paint,” and that William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “The Birth of Venus” is “so bad that there isn’t even a word for it.”