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Gerome: Introductory and Critical

Gerome: A Collection of the Works of J.L. Gerome in One Hundred Photgravures. Multiple Volumes. New York: Samuel L. Hall, 1881.

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Art & Architecture


fight, "there was in our art a complete lack of naivete. Chic, or facile execution, Was in grand vogue when it was accompanied by ease of style, which was common enough." Rather surprised at the success of the realistic " Cock-fight,' the painter followed it up with an equally analytic subject, an "Anacreon"—a "dry, dissected picture," he says gravely— and, in 1850, with the " Gyneceum," another bit of rigorous truth, really the first of a series in a now well-known genre, where voluptuous subjects are treated with a terrible demonstrative coldness, calculated to cast shame on those who go to them for licentious emotion. This picture was then accepted and blamed as a merely libertine work, but the author's cynical philosophy in working it out is now better understood, while its license of topic has unhappily been imitated by a crowd of followers who have not the painter's pretext of analytic demonstration, nor his scientific ability.

After the " Gyneceum," Gerome attacked the life-size representation of the human figure; in this line he did a frieze or podium in the Ex- position of 1852, with figures showing the different nationalities in full natural scale; also the " Century of Augustus," thirty feet wide, showing Bossuet's "age of peace, prepared for the advent of Christ," and, says its author, "resembling the Homer f Ingres in its arrangement, and unluckily in its arrangement alone." It is piquant to find so famously original a style accusing itself of plagiarism. In the same year with this last (1855), were executed, also life-size, the frescoes of Saint Severin in Paris, the "Communion of Saint Jerome"—the first of two tributes offered to his patron saint, and the "Vow of Archbishop Belzunce during the plague of Marseilles. Their general character is elevated enough, and the effect does not want originality; but," remarks the painter contritely, "everywhere dry, and even hard. It is a fault I have always tried to chastise in myself, and yet, if I have succeeded in reducing it, I have not yet got rid of it entirely." Few artists are capable of writing these lines of proud self-condemnation. But consider Gerome simply as a sculptor with the brush, and the fault is hardly a disadvantage. Every artist must be criticised in the light of the effect he seeks, and it is idle to blame Gounod for not being Wagner, or the architect f the Taj Mahal for not having made a Westminster.

With these frescoes, and the life-size study for the Dead Caesar, now in the Corcoran Gallery, concludes the list of paintings in the scale of nature.

In 1854, Gerome and Got the comedian travelled on the Danube,

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