Monday, November 24, 2008


Jean-Léon Gérôme
Self Portrait, 1886
Oil on Canvas
Current location: Aberdeen Art Gallery
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Charley Parker wrote in, 'Anyone who is interested in concept art for films or games, particularly if it involves near-eastern themes in games like Prince of Persia, should be aware of 19th Century painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, if you aren’t already. Likewise, anyone with in interest in Victorian art, the Pre-Raphaelites or 19th Century academic art in general would enjoy Gérôme’s beautifully painted scenes of mosques, minarets and Eqyptian rooftops, as well as his depictions of Imperial Rome. Gérôme excelled at the portrayal of these subjects, but at times exhibited an almost National Geographic style reportage of the inside of mosques and cityscapes, in contrast to his more exploitative harem scenes. Prayer in the Mosque was probably painted from sketches made on one of his many trips to Egypt. The painting is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.'

Public Prayer in the Mosque of Amr, Cairo
Oil on canvas, 1870
Private collection
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Gérome’s father, a goldsmith from Vésoul, discouraged his son from studying to become a painter but agreed, reluctantly, to allow him a trial period in the studio of Paul Delaroche in Paris. Gérôme proved his worth, remaining with Delaroche from 1840 to 1843. When Delaroche closed the studio in 1843, Gérôme followed his master to Italy. Pompeii meant more to him than Florence or the Vatican, but the world of nature, which he studied constantly in Italy, meant more to him than all three. An attack of fever brought him back to Paris in 1844. He then studied, briefly, with Charles Gleyre, who had taken over the pupils of Delaroche. Gérôme attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and entered the Prix de Rome competition as a way of going back to Italy. In 1846 he failed to qualify for the final stage because of his inadequate ability in figure drawing. To improve his chances in the following year’s competition, he painted an academic exercise of two large figures, a nude youth, crouching in the pose of of Chaudet’s marble Eros (1817; Paris, Louvre), and a lightly draped young girl whose graceful mannerism recalls the work of Gérôme’s colleagues from the studio of Delaroche. Gérôme added two fighting cocks (he was very fond of animals) and a blue landscape reminiscent of the Bay of Naples. Delaroche encouraged Gérôme to send The Cockfight (1846; Paris, Louvre) to the Salon of 1847, where it was discovered by the critic Théophile Thoré (but too late to buy it) and made famous by Théophile Gautier. The picture pleased because it dealt with a theme from Classical antiquity in a manner that owed nothing to the unfashionable mannerisms of David’s pupils. Moreover, it placed Gérôme at the head of the NÉO-GREC movement, which consisted largely of fellow pupils of Gleyre, such as Henri-Pierre Picou (1824–95) and Jean-Louis Hamon.

'Un Combat de Coqs'
Scanned from pre-WWI book
by User: Lee M
Courtesy: PD-Art
Courtesy of Jean-Léon Gérôme in

Arabs Crossing the Desert
Oil on canvas, 1870
Private collection
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Oil on canvas
Private collection
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

"An Arab Caravan outside a Fortified Town, Egypt"
Oil on canvas
Private collection
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Gerome travelled widely in Turkey, Egypt and North Africa. A sculptor as well as a painter, his female figures have the same classical precision of Ingres, but are in much more realistic poses. His best-known works are his oriental scenes. Two typical examples are in the Wallace Collection, London. They won Gerome great popularity and he had considerable influence as an upholder of academic tradition and enemy of progressive trends in art. He was not a big fan of Impressionist art.
(Bat Guano Web Works ®)

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer
Oil on canvas, 1883
Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore
Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer was commissioned from Gérôme by William T. Walters of Baltimore around 1860. When finally finished in 1883, Gérôme sent a letter along with the painting explaining his delay: “I regret to have made you wait for it so long, but I had a difficult task, being determined not to leave it until I accomplished all of which I was capable. This picture has been upon my easel for over twenty years. I have repainted it from the beginning three times. This, therefore, is really the third canvas, which you receive” (Catalogue of Paintings [Baltimore: Walters Art Gallery, 1929?], 38-39). That third canvas is now in the Walters Art Gallery. The historic scene depicted takes place in the Circus Maximus in Rome.
The Museum’s unfinished painting is one of the two earlier versions referred to by Gérôme and gives insight into the artist’s academic method. The visible grid lines were used to enlarge a smaller sketch accurately; they demonstrate the extent to which drawing formed the basis for his work. Thin layers of carefully applied paint establish compositional values. One can see that Gérôme originally painted the martyrs in the foreground, as the figures can faintly be seen. Gérôme painted over them and inserted the group farther back in the composition. This painting captures the dramatic moment at which the animals appear before the public. In the left foreground a fearsome lion emerges from a subterranean chamber, soon to be followed by another lion and a tiger. Christians of all ages huddle in prayer around a patriarchal figure. In the final version, other believers are bound to crosses and burned, a method of execution common during Nero’s reign. An extremely influential painter and teacher in his day, Gérôme continued the traditions of academic realism into the late nineteenth century.
(Source: : Cody Dingus, Utah Museum of Fine Arts,
University of Utah, Updated: January 5, 2004 º Webmaster)

The Age of Augustus
Oil on canvas
Private collection

In the late 1840s the French government gave Gerome a monumental commission to paint the massive Age of Augustus. In preparation for this commission, he traveled extensively in Europe and Asia Minor, documenting the customs of various regions. He spent two years working on the painting, tirelessly perfecting details of the various ethnic groups. With the money realized from this work, Gerome spent several months traveling and sketching in Egypt. Gerome's highly finished mythological and history paintings were anecdotal, painstaking, often melodramatic, and frequently erotic. For the last twenty-five years of his life, he concentrated on sculpture. His studio became a meeting place for artists, actors, and writers, and he was appointed a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Gerome became a legendary and respected master, noted for his sardonic wit, lax discipline, regimented teaching methods.
(Source: Oil Paintings Gallery, Alpharetta, Georgia)

Napoleon in Egypt
ca. 1867-68
Oil on canvas
© Princeton University Art Museum
©2008, a part of The New York Times Company

France's Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) invaded Egypt in July 1798 with 400 ships and 55,000 soldiers in an attempt to control the commercial land route to India and deal a significant blow to Britain's economy. During the relatively brief period of the French occupation (his troops surrendered to the British in September 1801), Napoleon encouraged more than 150 artists, engineers, mathematicians, naturalists and scientists (savants) to record with exacting precision Egypt's buildings, its monuments, flora, fauna and terrain as well as the region's society and forms of commerce.
What resulted was the Déscription de l'Égypte (1809-1822), the multi-volume compendium on ancient and modern Egypt. Its scholarly contents and plate illustrations contributed to the development of Egyptology. Editions of the work influenced the nineteenth-century Orientalist movement in European painting. It has also figured largely in Egyptomania (the periodic fascination with things Egyptian) for more than 200 years.
(Source: ©2008, a part of The New York Times Company)

Near 300 images by the artist:

Jean-Leon Gerome Paintings:

Jean-Léon Gérôme from allpaintings on Vimeo
©2008 Vimeo, LLC (Music: Kroke - Light In The Darkness)

Gerome was the aficionado of antiquity, inspiring him on creation of many paintings. And further antiquity, alongside with Lui's XIV history and Napoleon, had been given plots to his illustrative works. He traveled a lot and was obedient picturesque exotic of suits and landscapes; the Arabian equestrians became steel his favourite theme (
'Gérome's imagination was earthbound and yet he was known for his romanticizing. Carrying forward the whacky mix, his work often was exquisite, yet strangely pedestrian and nearly always, felt staged.
One critic of the time said that, in his paintings, Gérome had more feeling invested in the marble than in the human beings being portrayed.
Visually, his paintings are still gorgeous works, a joy to look at - so deep runs the power of painting to create a world - so powerful is pure craft - even if it only creates a material world, a dazzling material world' - Ira Altschiller

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