Jean-Leon Gerome was one of the great Parisian Orientalists. They were artists that traveled to the mid-east studied, observed, photographed and reproduced a version of a world that was very much a reflection of their European sensibilities. They were not entirely accurate in tone or content but the attention to detail of patterns, textures and physiology were impeccable. These were works of beauty and technique that were academic gems. His fellows including Delacroix, Regnault and others that supplied a vision of the mid-east that delighted mesmerized and to a degree informed a generation of collectors. The mid to late nineteenth century was fruitful and lush for these artists especially Gerome whose works were popular and sold profusely around the world including many American buyers. At least three of the images on this blog (including the richly lush The Snake Charmer) are in American collections.
Gerome’s academic style was much admired and rewarded before falling out of favor with the rise of the impressionist and later modernist painters. Photography and the increased access to mass travel beyond the elite classes were probably factors in the Gerome decline in popularity. World views changed as taste and fashion are constantly looking for “The New.” This applies just as readily to the world of fine art as to any other aspect of culture.
On many counts and in fact Gerome was an artist and creator of art of diverse themes and subjects. History, portraiture, stage and literature are all found among his catalogue. He has influenced film makers like Ridley Scott who used Gerome’s “Pollice Verso” as the informing inspiration for his film “Gladiator.” There is an adherent narrative element to the works of Gerome; they could well be scenes from great cinematic projections. The theatrical quality of his work is without dispute. There is no greater vision of drama or theatre laced with pathos and irony then Gerome’s “Duel after the Masquerade.” It is on view and among the permanent collection of The Walters Collection in Baltimore Maryland. The small 15.5” x 22.5” canvas is monumental in thought and achievement.
For the lovers of art and imagery Jean-Leon Gerome remains unsurpassed. His works are suggestions of mystery, eroticism and adventure. They are classical and romantic, rich in detail and skillful executions. To stand before a Gerome is to stand before genius and beauty.