The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme
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Emile Zola once remarked that there was not a house in France that did not have a print by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904).
Successive generations have overlooked him, but he has recently been undergoing a reassessment. This is the first major monographic exhibition of Gérôme in nearly 40 years.
Scott Allan, assistant curator of paintings at the Getty, said that the museum was particularly interested in the local Hollywood connection: “His paintings pervaded popular culture.
You can draw a direct line from Gérôme to ‘Ben Hur’ to Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’. We thought the pop culture aspect would be fun to key into.”
The show, arranged chronologically and thematically, traces Gérôme’s development: his light-hearted “neo-grec” phase, his work in the historical and orientalist genres, and a growing fascination with sculpture.
A section examines Gérôme’s relationship with photography and photographic reproduction: Gérôme “painted with photographic reproduction in mind,” says Allan.
While Gérôme was popular in his time, critics vilified him as a reactionary academic and conservative.
However, he was also an innovator who tried to reinvent history painting and pushed for photographic reproductions of works of art.
The aim of the show, according to Allan, is to “show both sides and complicate the stereotypes that have come down.” It will travel to the Musée d’Orsay, Paris (18 October-23 January 2011), and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid (22 March-12 June 2011) with which the show has been organised. Katharine Albritton
Categories: 1800-1900 (Impressionism, etc)