Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)
18 October 2010 – 23 January 2011
This exhibition is the first monographic exhibition on Jean-Léon Gérôme in Paris and the first major exhibition since the pioneer show organised by Gerald Ackerman in 1972-1973 (Dayton Art Institute, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore).
Perception of this artist has changed radically over the last few decades. Long dismissed as the emblematic champion of sterile academism, Gérôme is now understood to be one of the great image makers of the 19th century. This development is the result of historic research, primarily the publications of Gerald Ackerman, who will be associated with the exhibition catalogue. The research carried out by the Goupil museum on the circulation of his work (Gérôme and Goupil) also deserves recognition.
The Musée d’Orsay opened at a time when Gérôme’s work was becoming better known and has shown a sustained interest in him from the outset, buying The Crucifixion in 1990, the portrait of Baroness Nathaniel de Rothschild and Louis XIV receiving the Grand Condé at Versailles in 2004, a collection of photographs and manuscripts on the artist and his circle in 2003, and, in 1998, restoring the monumental Century of Augustus, which is currently on loan to the Amiens museum.
The exhibition and its catalogue are an excellent opportunity to explore all aspects his work from its sources through to its influence on other artists. It tries to show and analyse the energetic creation of a visual grammar which pushed obsessive illusionism to the limit and it resonates with all the visual arts, prints, photography and film. It is a way of taking stock and reviewing issues as varied as the place that Gérôme held in French painting in his time, his dramatic view of history painting, his complicated rapport with exoticism, his use of polychromy in sculpture, his educational role, his relationship to the use of antique models, from the neo-baroque movement through to the lessons learnt from his works, but also how the figure of the artist crystallised the entire anti-academic struggle in the late 19th century and lastly, the singular fate of his work in America. The catalogue also reviews Gérôme’s impact on the visual arts of the 20th century, in the cinema in particular.
Going beyond its immediate appeal, the exhibition attempts to explore both the scholarly and popular aspects of Gérôme’s work, a double identity which explains why it is now so appreciated by art historians and the general public.
Curated by: Laurence des Cars, director of Agence France-Museums;
Dominique de Font-Réaulx, curator at the Musée du Louvre;
Edouard Papet, chief curator at the Musée d’Orsay.