American Egyptomania Search

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


perhaps, occur in thinking of such painted poems as the Than "Triumph of Death," or Raphael's "Calumny." Attention to the history of art will restore this innovation to the French. It began with them as soon as they formed a school, and Gerome continues the effort, we may even suppose, with a sense of national responsibility.

About 164o, Poussin, a French artist, painted the "Et in Arcadia Ego." Poussin was a student of Dominichino's; but Poussin never found the hint of such an invention either in Dominichino or in any Italian. It was his French intelligence, his lucid national rhetoric, which impelled him to invent a rich and moving lyrical poem, and to express it in terms of painting. The Italians before him, in the Pisa—and the Greeks before them, never got beyond the function of sense of deriving their conceptions—with the doubtful exceptions at the illustrator. Raphael either illustrates the scenes of the Bible, or he illustrates the Psyche story of Apuleius, or he and Holbein both illustrate Lucian 's account of Apelles' "Calumny; " Titian's " Sacred and Profane Love," probably misnamed, is too obscure of purpose to be called a poem; if we could find its author's title, we should see it to be a merely didactic lecture, like Leonardo's "Modesty and Vanity." The Greek artists only illustrated their legends, and their' highest efforts at pathos—the "Dying Gauls" of their Pergamus, or the "Dirce" and "Laocadu" of their Rhodes—were hinted to them by history. It was for French art, in the person of Poussin, to intrude into painting precisely like a poet constructing the most moving epic he is capable of inventing. He imagines the young Arcadians, in what Balzac calls the insolence of health, stumbling on a tomb; the tomb cries to them, with the sublime peevishness, the inexpressibly unhappy boast of its tenant, " So was I an Arcadian / "Above all, who shall celebrate, in terms of fit praise, his picture of the shepherds?" cries Hazlitt, in ecstasy. "The eager curiosity of some, the expression of others, who start back with fear and surprise, the clear breeze playing with the branches of the shadowing trees, the 'valleys low, where the mild zephyrs use,' the distant uninterrupted sunny prospect, speak, and forever will speak on, of ages past to ages yet to come." When he thought out this thing of pure invention, not history but parable, with its musical, lyrical cry, its eloquence of the ode, and its imagery of created grace, Poussin was not Poussin—he was beneficent France, enriching the world with a GENRE.

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