Through most of the 20th century, however, Gérôme's critical reputation was tarnished by his alleged commercialism and his stubborn opposition to the triumphant avant-garde movements of Impressionism and Postimpresionism. The first comprehensive exhibition of his work in almost 40 years, this exhibition offers the opportunity to reconsider the variety and complexity of Gérôme's masterful oeuvre.
The exhibition brings together works that span Gérôme's entire career, from his early "Néo-Grec" paintings with their lighthearted take on classical antiquity, to his wide variety of historical scenes that still impress with their dramatic realism. A core group of Gérôme's Orientalist genre paintings are also on view. These paintings were inspired by the people and architecture he saw on his many voyages, beginning in the late 1850s, to Egypt, the Holy Land, and Asia Minor. Late in life, Gérôme shifted his focus to sculpture, conducting innovative experiments with polychromy that were informed by the latest archeological knowledge of antique sculpture. Although derided by critics, Gérôme's colorful, ornate statues—key examples of which are included in the exhibition—were popular among collectors, for whom he had them reproduced in a variety of sizes and materials.