Jean-Léon Gérôme  

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Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1872, is the immediate source of the "thumbs down" gesture in popular culture. It is owned by Phoenix Art Museum.
Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1872, is the immediate source of the "thumbs down" gesture in popular culture. It is owned by Phoenix Art Museum.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Jean-Léon Gérôme (May 11, 1824January 10, 1904) was a French academic painter and sculptor who resisted the modern art movements of Impressionism begun by Monet and Manet, continuing the development and conservation of French neo-classicism. The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits and other subjects, bringing the Academic painting tradition to an artistic climax.



Born at Vesoul (Haute-Saône), he went to Paris in 1840 where he studied under Paul Delaroche, whom he accompanied to Italy (1844-1845). On his return he followed, like many other students of Delaroche, into the atelier of Charles Gleyre, and in turn exhibited The Cock-fight, which gained him a third-class medal in the Salon of 1847. This work was seen as the epitomy of the Neo-Grec movement that had formed out of Gleyre's studio, and was championed by the French critic Theophile Gautier.The Virgin with Christ and St John and Anacreon, Bacchus and Cupid took a second-class medal in 1848. He exhibited Bacchus and Love, Drunk, a Greek Interior and Souvenir d'Italie, in 1851; Paestum (1852); and An Idyll (1853).

In 1854 Gérôme made a journey to Turkey and the shores of the Danube, and in 1857 visited Egypt. To the exhibition of 1855 he contributed a Pifferaro, a Shepherd, A Russian Concert and a large historical canvas, The Age of Augustus and the Birth of Christ. The last was somewhat confused in effect, but in recognition of its consummate ability the State purchased it.

Gérôme's reputation was greatly enhanced at the Salon of 1857 by a collection of works of a more popular kind: the Duel: after a Masquerade, Egyptian Recruits crossing the Desert, Memnon and Sesostris and Camels Watering, the drawing of which was criticized by Edmond About.

In Caesar (1859) Gérôme tried to return to a severer class of work, but the picture failed to interest the public. Phryne before the Areopagus, Le Roi Candaule and Socrates finding Alcibiades in the House of Aspasia (1861) gave rise to some scandal by reason of the subjects selected by the painter, and brought down on him the bitter attacks of Paul de Saint-Victor and Maxime Du Camp. At the same Salon he exhibited the Egyptian chopping Straw, and Rembrandt biting an Etching, two very minutely finished works.

Gérôme was elected a member of the Institut de France in 1865.

Jean-Léon Gérôme died in 1904 and was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery. He was the father-in-law of the painter Aimé Morot.

Selected works


Gérôme's best paintings are of Eastern subjects; among these may be named:

  • Turkish Prisoner and Turkish Butcher (1863)
  • Prayer (1865)
  • The Slave Market (1867)
  • Excursion of the Harem (1869)
  • Louis XIV and Molière (1863) – Historical theme
  • The Reception of the Siamese Ambassadors at Fontainebleau (1865)
  • Death of Marshal Ney (1868)


Gérôme was also successful as a sculptor; he executed, among other works; Omphale (1887), and the statue of the duc d'Aumale which stands in front of the château of Chantilly (1899). His Bellona (1892), in ivory, metal, and precious stones, which was also exhibited in the Royal Academy of London, attracted great attention. The artist then began an interesting series of Conquerors, wrought in gold, silver and gems Bonaparte entering Cairo (1897); Tamerlane (1898); and Frederick the Great (1899).


His students included:

List of works

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