Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) was an undisputed professional success during his lifetime. Crowds flocked to see his vividly rendered historical and Orientalist compositions, and thanks to the mass marketing of his work through mechanical reproduction, he reached audiences on an unprecedented scale.
From the outset, however, his success met with critical hostility. Émile Zola, champion of Édouard Manet, dismissed Gérôme as a cynical manufacturer of anecdotal images for popular consumptiona critique repeatedly echoed by historians of modern art. In light of revisionist and postmodern trends over the past four decades, however, Gérôme's work is now being approached with unprecedented seriousness and refreshing creativity. The ten essays in this volume go far in challenging critical biases against the artist and suggesting new avenues of research. These papers indeed suggest that we are just beginning to learn how to "read" Gérôme's paintings in their full complexity. Reconsidering Gérôme is published to accompany the exhibition The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme, on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from June 15 through September 12, 2010.
Scott Allan is assistant curator in the Department of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Mary Morton, former associate curator in the same department, is curator of French painting at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and editor of Oudry's Painted Menagerie: Portraits of Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century Europe (Getty Publications, 2007) and coauthor of Courbet and the Modern Landscape (Getty Publications, 2006).