The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Jean Leon Gérôme, 1824-1904

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1824.05.11
Place of Birth: Vesoul
Date of Death: 1904.01.10
Place of Death: Paris


Jean-Léon Gérôme, the son of a goldsmith, was a French painter and sculptor.


Gérôme studied in Paris under Paul Delaroche, and Charles Gleyre, and then entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His Cockfight (1846; Louvre), with which he hoped to make his second attempt at the Prix de Rome, was admired by the critic Théophile Thoré and held up as exemplary by the critic and poet Théophile Gautier. This work positioned him as at the fore of the Néo-Grec movement. A trip to Egypt in 1856 resulted in a number of pictures dealing with Near Eastern life and culture.

Whistler did not admire the academic classicism of Gérôme. In works such as his Six Projects, with their graceful fluidity of brushwork, pastel colouring and simplification of form, Whistler sought to present an alternative approach to the classical tradition. His friend the American painter Harper Pennington studied for two years under Gérôme at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Whistler's response in 1880 was, 'What a lot of trouble I might have saved you if I had met you sooner!'


Field-Hering, F., Gérôme: His Life and Works, New York, 1892; Ackerman, G. M., The Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, London, 1986; Whiteley, Jon, 'Jean-Léon Gérôme', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 8 March 2002).