History, mythology, Orientalism and portraiture with a not so subtle dash of rampant sexuality. Jean-Léon Gérôme’s paintings had it all. No wonder he was “arguably the world’s most famous living artist by 1880.”

Head of an Italian Woman (c. 1847-1860).
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904). By the great Nadar.
Gérôme with model for Omphale, c. 1885, Bibliothèque Nationale de France. He quickly realised that scenes like this were turn of the century softcore & maximised his “the making of” output.

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 – 1904) knew the power of a nude. It is, of course, blatantly obvious that sexuality played a huge role in his success. His imagery is riddled with sex. Nudes parade nonchalantly around the environments in his canvases. He was delivering a fantasy Orient up to the masses. In fact many of painting’s environmets are simply 1800s softcore porn sets, on which to carefully drape a nude or nudes. Jean-Léon didn’t just cater for hetrosexual tastes, he provides plenty for fans of homoeroticism too.

He even turned “the making of” into a chance to show nudes. The making of paintings & sculptures of nudes in the studio he realised, was killer content. Turn of the century click bait. High art meets titillation.

Having said all that, what Gérôme creates is high art. The very highest. He was like no-one else. Technically there was no-one better.

Finally, it’s impossible to look at Gerome’s work through a politally correct 21st-century lens without being at least a tiny bit offended. But if we were to dismiss & decry art history based on our values now we’d have to start with Michelangelo, right?

Students and model, this is believed to be one of Gérome’s classes at the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1902.
Working in Marble, 1890, Dahesh Museum of Art; Gérôme depicts himself sculpting Tanagra, with Pygmalion and Galatea in the background.
Tanagra, marble, 1890, photogravure Goupil c. 1892,
Musée d’Orsay.
Self-portrait, painting The Ball Player, 1902, Musée Georges-Garret, Vesoul.
The Ball Player, bronze sculpture. c. 1900s.
Phryne revealed before the Areopagus (1861).
Bashi-Bazouk (1868).
Woman at a Balcony (1887–88).
The Large Pool of Bursa, 1885, private collection.
Une Journée Chaude Au Caire (Devant La Mosquée).
The Carpet Merchant (circa 1887).

The Cock Fight, 1846.
The Standing Bearer, Unfolding The Holy Flag (1876).
The Grand White Eunuch. Date unknown.
After the Bath (19th century).
The Slave Market (circa 1866).
Jeune Fille Du Caire. Date unknown.
Jeune Fille du Caire.Date unknown.
The Slave Market, 1871
Le Bain des femmes. c. 1876.
Pool in a Harem, 1876, Hermitage Museum.
Veiled Circassian Beauty. Date unknown.
Master of the Hounds (1871).
Woman of Constantinople. Daate unknown.
Lion on the Watch (c. 1885).
Markos Botsaris (1874).
Le Tigre Et Le Gardien. Date unknown.
Study For A Maure Bath, Turkish Woman In The Bath. Date unkown.
After The Bath. Date unknown.
Baigneuse À La Piscine De Brousse.Date unknown.
Chef arnaute. Date unknown.
A Young Nymph Teased By Putti (1851)
Michelangelo Being Shown the Belvedere Torso, 1849, Dahesh Museum of Art.
Snake Charmer (c. 1879).
Portrait of a Woman (1851).

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