Feeding My Gerome Addiction

Part of my Philadelphia trip included a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I love to believe that the muses communicate directly with me when I’m in any museum, so I am inclined to go wherever I’m “led”, so to speak. I stepped over to the European art wing, and I got the feeling that I would quickly find something incredible. My intuition didn’t disappoint: less than a few steps into the first room I entered, I was face to face with a painting by one of my favorite artists, Jean-Leon Gerome.


Portal of the Green Mosque (Sentinel at the Sultan’s Tomb), Jean-Leon Gerome, 1870

I’ve written about Gerome before, and back then, I struggled with expressing exactly what it is about his paintings that I love. I *think* I have the language to express myself now LOL! I love the realism in Gerome’s work. His paintings featured lots of African, Middle Eastern and Asian subjects and, unlike many European artists, he chose to depict his subjects humanely, touchingly, and accurately. For that, I’ll always be a fan.

This painting, Portal of the Green Mosque (Sentinel at the Sultan’s Tomb), was completed by Gerome in 1870. By this time, Gerome was a very experienced painter (more than 20 years experience, to be exact) and had quite a few commissions, honors, and his own atelier to his credit. He had established a name for himself and was a master at Orientalist paintings. While many may conclude that Gerome’s work objectified his subjects to the point of being lecherous, I’m inclined to take a different perspective.  The combination of “exotic”, non-White subjects and a Neoclassical or Romantic depiction of these subjects results in capturing the subjects’ humanity in ways that had never been done before.

The sentinel depicted is solemn, a little melancholy, but not to be pitied: he seems at peace with his position and dutifully stands in defense of the sultan’s remains. You can sense that this is a hot and hazy day, if the languorous hound in the foreground is any indicator. However, I sense that the dog in the background, that is standing closer to the entrance, is much like the sentinel himself: alert, solemn, ready to defend.

I enjoyed this painting, as I enjoy every other Gerome work that I’ve seen. I know that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has several Gerome paintings on view. I intend to make a special trip to view and photograph some of them. Look out for that post soon! In the meantime, enjoy, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!


art · life curation

A Love Affair with Jean-Leon Gerome, Part 2

In my previous post about Jean-Leon Gerome, I talked about how I first became acquainted with his work, and the impression that painting left on me. To date, I don’t think there is any other painting that moved me to the point of researching the painter so that I could know more about the genius that created it.

As I go forward in pursuing my art interests, I’m fascinated by the prospect of one day owning a Gerome painting for my own collection. Or, perhaps I’ll help popularize an artist that has a similar gift, deftly portraying people of color while effectively communicating the subjects’ humanity.

I am excited to announce that a painting attributed to Jean-Leon Gerome will be auctioned by Sotheby’s on February 1, 2018. While I won’t be bidding on it, I’m excited to see what comes of it. Will the buyer put it into his or her private collection, or will it become part of a museum exhibit in the style of the Salvator Mundi that sent the art world into a tizzy?

Only time will tell, but in the meantime, here’s the painting offered by Sotheby’s. The Portrait Study of Giacomo Orlandi di Subiaco (c 1843) has many Gerome-esque attributes.

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For starters, this portrait features the dark background and “candlelit” lighting that Gerome favored. The subject himself, with his tanned skin, dark, curly hair, and expressive eyes, is captured in similar fashion as other Gerome subjects. The painting didn’t attempt to “perfect” the subject by putting him in fine regalia or making his nose more aquiline: Gerome’s affinity for realism is present in this photo. The painting looks like someone that you may run into on the streets of Rome, in the midst of running his daily errands.

I am eager to see what happens with this painting. I only have to wait a few more days until the auction: I can’t wait!

art · life curation

A Love Affair with Jean-Leon Gerome, Part 1

If you’re fortunate, you’ll come across an artist whose work speaks to you on a cellular level. For me, that artist is Jean-Leon Gerome. Every Gerome painting that I’ve seen has taken my breath away and transported me to a different time and place. I can’t see a Gerome painting without stopping to stare for a while.

Many of Gerome’s paintings have an ever-present touch of exoticism. From paintings set in the deserts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, to his dignified portraits of people of color, I find myself enchanted by his interpretation of the exciting world outside of Europe.

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The painting that started it all: The Slave Market (1871) by Jean-Leon Gerome (Cincinnati Art Museum)

A short story: I saw my first Gerome painting when I was in Cincinnati several years ago. I decided to walk from my hotel to the Cincinnati Art Museum because it was less than two miles away, and I was in (relatively) good shape (side note: if you are ever in Cincinnati, you must stop by this museum. It’s a real gem!). Unfortunately, it began to rain and pour, and the next day, I had a cold so bad that I slept for half of the day and didn’t eat anything for dinner that evening (I recall making a hot toddy that helped tremendously, but I was still uncomfortable for a few days).

Back to the point: I laid eyes on The Slave Market (1871) and I stopped in my tracks. The painting was so powerful and full of raw emotion that I literally couldn’t move. The look of despair and anguish on the faces of the enslaved women stirred my soul. I knew, the moment that I saw this painting, that I’d never look at art with same eyes as I had when I first entered the museum. It’s the one work of art that I take with me, in spirit, wherever I go.


These photos fail to capture the emotion and realism on the subjects’ faces: this one must be experienced in person!

Thus began my love affair with Jean-Leon Gerome. Stay tuned for Part Two, where I discuss more about Gerome and why I’m discussing him on this blog (p.s. it’s relevant to some of the other things I’ve discussed here!) Talk to you all soon!