French, 1824-1904

Jean Leon Gerome

'Jean-Léon Gérôme attended secondary school in his native Vesoul and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1840. Determined to make his way as a painter, he moved to Paris to study under Paul Delaroche at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1842. He followed in Delaroche’s footsteps to Rome and attended life classes there. Gérôme returned to France in 1844 and worked in Charles Gleyre’s atelier. He entered the Prix de Rome but did not reach the final stages (although he won the prize for draughtsmanship). The workers’ revolution of 1848 saw him appointed to a captaincy in the National Guard. Gérôme travelled widely, visiting Italy, Turkey, the Danube region and Egypt and, on each occasion, returned with a large portfolio of sketches and studies. His marriage to one of the daughters of the publisher Goupil proved socially advantageous and he quickly made a name for himself to the extent that his work began to sell for substantial sums. He was appointed to a professorship at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1864, then to membership of the Institut de France (1865). As a teacher his influence was substantial and he was known to be most supportive of his pupils.1865 was an annus mirabilis in terms of his career, when he was invited to the royal court at Compiègne. He continued to travel, visiting Grenada in 1883. In 1893 he was nominated, together with Benjamin Constant, to the honorary co-presidency of the Société des Peintres Orientalisants; this was followed by his election as officer first class of the Légion d’Honneur (1898). Jean Gérôme exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon in 1847 at the age of 23, showing a composition entitled The Cock Fight, a work that earned him a bronze medal and was subsequently acquired by the state. The following year, he submitted to the Salon his Anacreon, Bacchus and Cupid, a work commissioned originally by the Interior Ministry in exchange for 1,800 francs, together with a portrait and a Virgin and Child with St John; he was duly awarded a further bronze. In 1850, however, his Salon entry entitled Greek Interior proved extremely controversial. The 1855 Exposition Universelle saw him awarded a silver medal and the cross of the Légion d’Honneur on the strength of four canvases (Guardian of the Flock, Pifferato, Russian Encampment and a massive 33 × 23 ft/10 × 7 m composition representing The Age of Augustus, the Birth of Christ, a work also acquired by the French state). He continued to exhibit with considerable success in Paris, notably an Egyptian Conscripts Crossing the Desert and a Duel After the Masked Ball in 1857, and Phryne Appearing before the Areopagus in 1861. He was awarded a medal of honour in 1867 and named an officer of the Légion d’Honneur, in recognition perhaps of his Salon submission of that year (Death of Caesar) – at which the French author, writer and caricaturist Gaspard-Félix Nadar poked fun, terming it ‘a day in the life of a laundress’. Gérôme, incensed by Nadar’s taunts, promptly dubbed the Impressionists a ‘disgrace to French art’ and violently denounced Caillebotte’s Impressionist bequest to the Beaux-Arts, describing the work of Monet and Pissarro as ‘filthy trash’. In 1878, Gérôme was made a commander of the Légion d’Honneur; in the same year, he exhibited his first sculpture entitled Gladiators (Thumbs Down).

Gérôme’s early efforts had included faithfully copying a painting by Decamps and, throughout his career, he was at pains to ‘render gesture accurately’. Thus, his 1847 painting of The Cock Fightrepresented no fewer than six years of careful preparation and minute anatomical study. On 12 June 1848, Gérôme received a 500-franc state commission to design an allegorical figure of the French Republic. Elsewhere, he painted two religious compositions that decorate the chapel of St-Séverin in Paris, a Communion of St Jerome and a Bishop Belzunce Taking a Vow at the Sacré Coeur during the Plague in Marseilles. His Paestum was produced in 1852 as an attempt to make his mark as a painter of historical subjects. A number of his works enjoyed popularity as lithographs or photographs, including his After the Masked Ball (or Pierrot’s Duel) and Phryne before the Areopagus, which portrays the Greek courtesan arraigned before the tribunal in Athens. Towards the end of his life, Gérôme stopped painting, sensing - and declaring publicly – that the quality of his work had waned. He concentrated on sculpture, producing a painted sculpture of Tanagra in 1890.

Gérôme was widely regarded as the standard-bearer of the neo-Grecian or neo-Pompeian style. That said, he succeeded in imparting a lightness and sensuality to his work that compares favourably with many artists who painted antique themes in a more serious, conventional style. His overriding ambition was to compete with photography and, as a result, he was often more concerned with faithful reproduction than with creative originality. Overall, he emerges as a skilled but uncritical artist, very much in line with the traditions of ‘official’ art of the 19th century, despite his occasional experimentation with new techniques.'  (Benezit, Dictionary of Artists, Gründ, 2006)

Museum Collections:
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY
Courtauld Institute of Art, London
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Musée des Augustins, Tou
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
National Gallery, London
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
The Wallace Collection, London
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

Mark Murray Fine Paintings is a New York gallery specializing in buying and selling 19th century and early 20th century artwork.

Please contact us if you are interested in selling your Jean-Léon Gérôme paintings or other artwork from the 19th century and early 20th century. 

Paintings and sculptures for sale

Jean-Léon Gérôme Paintings Previously Sold

JEAN-LÉON GÉRÔME    Arnaute et Chiens   Oil on canvas 13 x 10 inches (33 x 25 cm)  SOLD

Arnaute et Chiens
Oil on canvas
13 x 10 inches (33 x 25 cm)

JEAN-LÉON GÉRÔME    Tête de Cheval en Profil   Oil on canvas 9 x 12¼ inches (22.8 x 31 cm)  SOLD

Tête de Cheval en Profil
Oil on canvas
9 x 12¼ inches (22.8 x 31 cm)

JEAN-LÉON GÉRÔME    Study of a Camel   Oil on canvas laid down on board 8 x 9¼ inches (20.5 x 23.5 cm)  SOLD

Study of a Camel
Oil on canvas laid down on board
8 x 9¼ inches (20.5 x 23.5 cm)

JEAN-LÉON GÉRÔME    Study of a Horse   Oil on canvas laid down on board 16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm)  SOLD

Study of a Horse
Oil on canvas laid down on board
16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm)