“The stories are woven
And fortunes are told
The truth is measured by the weight of your gold
The magic lies scattered
On rugs on the ground
Faith is conjured in the night market’s sound”
Have you ever seen a scene painted in colors so vivid that it seems surreal? A mesmerizing creation of a talent so great it takes your breath away, when all you can do is stare at the painting in awe, trying to imprint the painting in your memories and bring it home? I have been a devoted admirer of art for many years, but then came the fateful evening when by chance, I came to see an exposition of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s paintings at Parisian Musee d’Orsay. The encounter became an inspiring awakening, an event that made me fall in love with art all over again.
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) was one of the most celebrated French artists of the second half of the 19th century. Gérôme’s earliest works captured the spirit of the Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire; howevre, he is most known as a member of the orientalist movement. His style is academically-realistic, detailed and is almost cinematic.
No, no, ’tis not those dismal figures who
inspire his wretched soul’s remorse
though shadowy visions that gleam with blood.
What, then, ails this Pasha, beckoned by war
yet weeping like a woman, vacant and sad?
His Nubian tiger is dead.
La Douleur du pacha, Victor Hugo
The painter was an avid collector of oriental items acquired during his journeys through the Middle East. His vision of the East merged authentic elements and the stereotypical world of fantasy, filled with sensuality and violence.
Gérômedid not avoid a dose of controversy during his lifetime. The painter was significantly criticized for his commercial spirit. Married to the daughter of the founder of Goupil publishing house, with his father-in-law’s assistance Gérômeorganized wide-scale photo and gravure reprodution of his works, bringing the art to the masses. Some of his works, like Pollice verso , have thus earned international popularity.