The French Academy painters have something of a bad reputation today because of their exclusion of the Impressionists. (That’s not true of all of them; some chose to stay out.) I’m all for as much variety in art as possible. But if I had to choose one group, it would be the Academy. The work is so beautiful and interesting, often with classical allusions. Luckily, however, I don’t have to choose because the Impressionists are great too.
On this day in 1824, the great French Academy painter Jean-Leon Gerome was born. Whereas William Bouguereau was mostly a figure painter (An insanely great one!) Gerome was more of a historical painter. He was also quite an accomplished sculptor, and would probably be important if that were all he had done. But I’m most impressed with his painting.
In addition to his artistic output, Gerome was one of the most important educators of his time. He taught some of the greatest painters of later generations. These include the symbolist painter Odilon Redon, the impressionist Mary Cassatt, and cartoonist Georges Ferdinand Bigot. That just scratches the surface, but it provides a good idea of the breadth of his influence.
Like many great painters, Gerome’s life was not that interesting. He showed talent early on and then he spent the rest of his life using it. Here is a really great example of that, The Tulip Folly. It is a representation of soldiers in the Netherlands trampling tulip fields trying to stabilize the out of control tulip market:
Happy birthday Jean Leon Gerome!