During the Enlightenment, especially in France, a tradition called The Salon developed. Rich and open minded men and women would hold elaborate dinner parties to which they would invite all sorts of artists, writers, and politically minded people. At these functions it would be typical for first a poet to get up and read an original poem. Then the guests would discuss the poem critically. Next a painter would exhibit his latest effort. All would appraise and criticize. There would be general discussions of the issues of the day, and of the ideals of the people. The Salons were rich breeding grounds for ideas and high thought. They led to art criticism as it is today. Two people whose Salons were famous all over Europe were Mary Thérèse Geoffrin and Denis Diderot.
See a modern day online Salon