An Afternoon at the Museum

It takes a truly stunning exhibition to captivate me.  Art history is my job.  And as with all jobs, we often become calloused by our day-to-day activities, no matter how much we adore them.  So on Saturday, I was unexpectedly spellbound by the Jean-Louis Gerôme exhibition at the Getty Center.

You may require a bit of background on this lesser-known nineteenth-century French painter turned sculptor.  Gerôme is equally adored and detested within the art historical community.   For those who love him, he was a master of graceful Academic painting, telling stories from ancient history and far-away lands by using luscious colors and realistic textures.  For those who dislike him, he was an uninventive sell-out, often producing painted stereotypes that pandered to the masses. 

As you've already gathered, I am in the former category.  Having only previously seen his works in reproductions, I was not prepared for the refined beauty that awaited me at the Getty.  Books and jpgs simply cannot convey the saturation of Gerôme's oil paints or the adeptness with which his brush licks the surface of the canvas so that no indication of a brushstroke remains.
With one exception, most of the canvases and panels in the exhibition were less than a few feet wide.  And, most were focused on the nineteenth-century Orientalist fad of depicting scenes of Asia Minor in all its foreign opulence.

In the last galleries of the exhibition, viewers were treated to contemporary photographs alongside Gerôme's paintings.  Seeing how, even at its birth, photography influenced the preparatory process of a painter, offered compelling study of the myriad artistic changes occurring in the Nineteenth Century.
But aside from the fascinating historical context, the delicacy of Gerôme's color palette and the genuineness of his textures thrilled me.  Standing before his painting of a carpet bazaar in Turkey, I was able to detect each vibrantly-colored fiber of the textile. Basking in this aesthetic experience was not only a delight but also an inspiration.
Angelinos, get thee to the Getty! Fill your next weekend afternoon with a scrumptious visual delight.  Take a picnic and recline in the Getty gardens.  Feed your soul with painting. 
What is the most captivating exhibition you've seen lately?  What artist has taken your breath away?


  1. Pink Frenchie,
    Beautifully written review.
    Send it to the Getty!

  2. Nice! Sounds fabulouso!


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