Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jean-Leon Gerome

Reception of ambassadors of Siam by Napoleon III at Fontainebleau, 27 June 1861
oil on canvas
128x260 cm
Chateau de Versailles, France

Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904) was a French painter, sculptor, and teacher, one of the most prominent late 19th-century academic artists in France. The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits and other subjects, bringing the Academic painting tradition to an artistic climax.  He is considered one of the most important painters from this academic period, and in addition to being a painter, he was also a teacher with a long list of students. He was exceedingly hostile to the Impressionists and, as late as 1893, urged the government to refuse a bequest of 65 of their works.

He went to Paris in 1840 where he studied under Paul Delaroche, whom he accompanied to Italy (1843-1844). He visited Florence, Rome, the Vatican and Pompeii, but he was more attracted to the world of nature. Taken by a fever, he was forced to return to Paris in 1844. On his return he followed, like many other students of Delaroche, into the atelier of Charles Gleyre and studied there for a brief time. He then attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1846 he tried to enter the prestigious Prix de Rome, but failed in the final stage because his figure drawing was inadequate. He abandoned his dream of winning the Prix de Rome and took advantage of his sudden success. Some of his paintings took a second-class medal in 1848.

He died in his atelier . He was found in front of a portrait of Rembrandt and close to his own painting "The Truth". At his own request, he was given a simple burial service without flowers. But the Requiem Mass given in his memory was attended by a former president of the Republic, most prominent politicians, and many painters and writers. He was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in front of the statue Sorrow that he had cast for his son Jean who had died in 1891. He was also successful as a sculptor. During the last 25 years of his life he concentrated on sculpture. His father was a goldsmith.