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Sunday, 31 May 2009
ART SUNDAY - GÉRÔME
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” - Aristotle
For Art Sunday, a painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) It is his “Duel after a Masked Ball”, 1857; Oil on canvas; The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Gérôme was a French painter and sculptor, a pupil of Paul Delaroche from whom he learnt his highly finished academic style. His best-known works are his oriental scenes, made authentic through his several visits to Egypt. These orientalist paintings were very popular in the late 19th century and won Gérôme great acclaim. Riding on the crest of this success, he had considerable influence as an upholder of academic tradition and enemy of progressive trends in art; he opposed, for example, the acceptance by the state of the Caillebotte bequest of Impressionist pictures.
Another genre that he painted extensively in was that of scenes of classical antiquity. His carefully composed canvases of Roman and Greek scenes are full of charming detail and historically accurate representations of everyday life. His snapshots of the stuff of legend and history bring these scenes of antiquity back to life and certainly make the study of history more interesting. However, it should be noted that in both his oriental and antique styles, Gérôme often sacrifices the telling of the story to some thinly veiled eroticism and voyeurism. A liberal sprinkling of female nudes make his art border on the salacious.
The last group of his works represent portraiture and miscellaneous scenes that generally tell a story. The painting above is such an example and from this scene one can imagine a rich tale of love, betrayal, honour regained and death.
Jean-Léon Gérôme died in his atelier on 10 January 1904. He was found in front of a portrait of Rembrandt and close to his own painting “The Truth”. At his own request, he was given a simple burial service, even without flowers. But the Requiem Mass given in his memory was attended by a former president of the Republic, most prominent politicians, and many painters and writers. He was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in front of the statue “Sorrow” that he had cast for his son Jean, who had died in 1891.
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.