You can visit this link at the Getty website to see many of the images from the show:
While the subject matter is grim, seeing "Christan Martyrs Last Prayer" in person gave us a different impression of the story in the painting. Stuart argues quite convincingly that the lions and tiger emerging from the pit don't actually look that hungry or interested in the people.. so perhaps they are about to be spared after all. The tiger in fact looks like he's thinking "Christians again??? No thanks, I'm not hungry."
My favorite painting from the show is "Oedipus"... on loan from Hearst Castle. This image of a tiny Napoleon on horseback considering an enormous head of the Sphinx emerging from the desert sand also evokes the classic Alex Schomburg cover image of lady liberty buried in the sand (also famous from the end of Planet of the Apes).
The curator notes throughout are quite interesting...here are my notes on some of these..
Gerome was part of a group of artists working from 1847 on known as the "Neo-Grecs"... whose work is characterized by "idyllic lyricism, hedonistic gaiety & witty irreverence."
From the late 1850s, Gerome committed to history painting, the most noble & demanding of genres. His most memorable pictures influenced later representations of history, especially in the fledgling art of cinema. Gerome's works show his use of props, costume & decor in a highly polished, meticulous style. His images were widely distributed as prints and photos. Early filmmakers referenced Gerome's work, hoping to lend cultural legitimacy to their own new medium.
In the late 1850s, Gerome traveled to Egypt, Asia and the Holy Lands. His paintings of these subjects show that he invented with extraordinary freedom, creating highly fanciful scenes formed by western stereotypes & fantasies about the east. His travel experience brought a mixture of realism & exoticism to his images.... combining firsthand observation with fabrication.
When Gerome was 54 years old, he held his first exhibition of sculptures. The critics were aghast at his boldly colored works...( my reaction was... good for him for learning a new medium at a time when most of us would be focused on retirement!!!). Gerome also dabbled in Dadaism (see 1902 Opiticien)....
I have to say I found the famous "snake charmer" painting a bit rude and morally suspect viewing it in 2010.. however the blue mosaic wall that dominates the painting is superb and none of the reproductions I've seen do it justice.
Needless to say I got a lot more out of this exhibit than I expected. I was particularly delighted to get the joke in french about O.. Pti..Cien... also referring to the little dog in the image. Once again, I was reminded that it's good to get out of the house and see these things when they come through town.... Check it out for yourself if you can....
Finally, here are some images from the grounds at the Getty....
garden w/ waterfall..