Catalogue published in conjunction with the exhibition The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) showned at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris from 19 Oct. 2010 to 23 January 2011.
For a long time Gérôme was stigmatised as the representative of sterile Academic art, until, in the later decades of his life, there was a profound change in how he was perceived. Today he is recognised as one of the great image creators of the 19th century.
The exhibition is an opportunity to look at all aspects of his work, from his sources to his influence: Gérôme's place in French painting of his time, his theatrical interpretation of history painting, his complex relationship with exoticism, his use of polychromy in sculpture, his role as a teacher and his interest in the Classical model. It also looks at how his personality crystallised the whole anti-Academic struggle of the late 19th century, and finally how he aroused the passionate interest of the general public and American collectors.
Apart from their immediate charm and accessibility, it is surely the dual identity of these works, both scholarly and popular, pushing the illusionist obsession to the point of strangeness, that makes them so valued today by art historians and general public alike.