Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)

Biography

Jean-Léon Gérôme was a French painter and sculptor working in the style now known as Academicism. The range of his oeuvre included Historical painting, Greek mythology and Orientalism.

Gérôme was born at Vesoul in France. He went to Paris in 1840 where he studied under Paul Delaroche, whom he accompanied to Italy in 1843. He visited Florence, Rome, the Vatican and Pompeii, but he was more attracted to the world of nature. On his return to Paris in 1844 he followed, like many other students of Delaroche, into the atelier of Charles Gleyre and studied there for a brief time. He then attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

He sent his painting The Cockfight to the Salon of 1847, where it gained him a third-class medal. This work was seen as the epitome of the Neo-Grec movement that had formed out of Gleyre's studio.

In 1852, Gérôme received a commission by Alfred Emilien Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Surintendant des Beaux-Arts to the court of Napoleon III, for the painting of a large historical canvas, The Age of Augustus. In this canvas he combines the birth of Christ with conquered nations paying homage to Augustus. Thanks to a considerable down payment, he was able to travel in 1853 to Constantinople, together with the actor Edmond Got. This would be the first of several travels to the East. In 1854 he made another journey to Turkey and the shores of the Danube. In 1856, he visited Egypt for the first time. This would herald the start of many Orientalist paintings depicting Arab religion, genre scenes and North African landscapes.

He married Marie Goupil, the daughter of the international art dealer Adolphe Goupil. They had four daughters and one son. Upon his marriage he moved to a house in the Rue de Bruxelles, close to the music hall Folies Bergère. He expanded it into a grand house with stables with a sculpture studio below and a painting studio on the top floor.

Gérôme was elected, on his fifth attempt, a member of the Institut de France in 1865. Already a knight in the Légion d'honneur, he was promoted to an officer in 1867. In 1869, he was elected an honorary member of the British Royal Academy. The King of Prussia Wilhelm I awarded him the Grand Order of the Red Eagle, Third Class. His fame had become such that he was invited, along with the most eminent French artists, to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

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.