Saturday, November 16, 2013

Gerome's Two Demands

Jean-Léon Gérôme in his studio
According to Edouard Cucuel, the great academic master Jean-Léon Gérôme demanded two things of his pupils before they started to paint: "That they lay on a red or yellow tone, and that they keep their brushes scrupulously clean. Woe to him who disobeys."

As the master made the rounds commenting on student work, the model had to hold the pose, no matter how difficult, for up to two straight hours until the criticism was over.

Gérôme was a severe taskmaster, but he was also known for his geniality and kindliness, which appeared after the criticism, when the students showed their sketches and studies made outside the École des Beaux-Arts.
From "Bohemian Paris of To-Day" by Edouard Cucuel, page 52-3.


Terry said...

I've been an art class's model, and two hours is simply inhuman. Twenty minutes is usually the upper limit before one starts to feel pain; by 30 one's weeping (ignorant that I had the right to call a break, I sat still for 45 minutes one time. The teacher, who had left the room, was appalled when he came back and found me with tears running down my face.) This two hour business does NOT speak well of Gerome. I suppose models were routinely treated poorly since most were in poverty, and desperate.

Roberto said...

I'm w Terry, there is no excuse for model abuse, I suspect this is an exaggeration. But I'm w Gerome on the clean brushes thing. A very touchy subject, right up there w religion, politics and color theory.-RQ

Anonymous said...

It was a rougher time all right, but I'd love to have been in that class (as a student, anyway!);-), as Gerome's one of my faves.

James Gurney said...

Terry, yes, even Cucuel remarked that two hours seemed unfair but apparently that's how it was done then.

Most of the models were from southern Italy, and they started as young as five. Listen to his description of how they chose models:

"Every Monday morning from ten to twenty present themselves, male and female, for inspection in puris naturalibus before the critical gaze of the students of the different ateliers. One after another they mount the throne and assume such academic poses of their own choosing as they imagine will display their points to the best advantage. The students then vote upon them, for and against, by raising thehand."

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

The high ceilings of his studio are amazing.