Henri-Pierre Picou, like his friends Gérôme, Boulanger, and Hamon, studied in the ateliers of Delaroche and Gleyre. Like them, he also debuted at the 1847 Salon and later received a second Grand Prix de Rome (in 1853) for his painting, The Moneylenders Chased from the Temple (École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris). Although he shared in their enthusiasm for mythological and classical subjects, he received commissions for religious painting, such as the frescoes in the church of Bon Secours in Nantes (1858) and canvases for the Chapel of the Holy Apostles in the church of Saint-Roch in Paris. His style had classicizing elements but often demonstrated a neo-rococo tendency in the dancelike poses and light, pastel palette.
Born in Vesoul near the Swiss border, Jean-Léon Gérôme grew up in comfort. His goldsmith father approved of his decision to become an artist and supported his study in Paris with Delaroche (q.v.) during the early 1840s. Delaroche's interest in historical reconstruction, precise detail, and smooth picture surface had a significant effect on the young student. After failing to win the Prix de Rome in 1846, which his father pressured him to enter, Gérôme decided to make his name at the Salons. His debut there in 1847 with A Cock Fight (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) was a huge success and brought him and his fellow neo-Grecs, as they were called, much attention. Several important commissions and purchases followed, including church decoration and the huge historical picture The Age of Augustus (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) that emulated the kind of classicizing panorama of Delaroche in the hemicycle for the École des Beaux-Arts. Gérôme also studied briefly with Charles Gleyre (1808-1874) after Delaroche closed his studio in 1842. Gleyre's travel and sketches from the Near and Middle East may also have played a critical role in introducing the young artist to another major interest of his career, orientalist subject matter. With the twenty thousand francs paid for The Age of Augustus, the artist treated himself to a trip to Constantinople with his actor-friend Edmond Got. Further travels to the Middle East followed, and Gérôme exhibited his first Egyptian themes in the 1857 Salon.
In the 1878 Universal Exposition in Paris, he exhibited his first attempts at sculpture, which corresponded closely with his painted works, first following their themes, then serving as models for his canvases, especially the Pygmalion pictures. During the 1880s he was, like several other artists, drawn to incorporate polychromy and various precious and semi-precious materials into his sculpture; this was known to be a widespread practice among ancient sculptors, and it heightened the illusion of lifelikeness as well as the decorative aspect of these works.
Although he had not succeeded at the École des Beaux-Arts, Gérôme received one of three prestigious professorships in 1863 following the somewhat controversial reforms of the fine arts institutions in Paris. His official rather than academic achievements made him a good candidate to lead the new generation of French painters out of the decadence into which many believed French art had fallen. He taught hundreds of students in his atelier at the École as well as at his independent studio and had an especially strong impact on his American students, such as Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) and Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928). Although the majority of Gérôme's students remember him as an exacting but fair master, he showed intractable resistance to the new modes of impressionism and symbolism and campaigned against the acceptance of Gustave Caillebotte's (1843-1893) bequest of such art to the French state.
In 1863 Gérôme married Marie Goupil, the daughter of well-known international art dealer Adolphe Goupil, who became the exclusive representative of his work. Goupil not only sold his son-in-law's pictures through his branches in Europe and New York, but he also disseminated their reputation through photographic reproductions.1 Gérôme received all the highest honors awarded to nineteenth-century artists and achieved considerable financial success.
1. See Linda Whiteley, "Goupil, (Jean-Michel-) Adolphe," Dictionary of Art (London, 1996), 13:228; and Musée Goupil, Conservatoire de L'image Industrielle Bordeaux, État des lieux 1 (Bordeaux, 1994), esp. 9-36.
Gustave Rodolphe Boulanger
Although orphaned at the age of fourteen, Gustave Rodolphe Boulanger, of Creole ancestry, had many oppor-tunities to study painting and to travel, going to Algeria for the first time in 1845. He entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1846 after studying with the masters Pierre Jules Jollivet (1754-1871) and Delaroche (q.v.). Only three years later he won the Grand Prix de Rome, and his extended stay in Italy from 1850 to 1856 overlapped those of the classicizing painters Paul Baudry (1828-1886), Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889), and Bouguereau (q.v.), as well as the architect Charles Garnier (1825-1898), who later engaged him to decorate the Paris Opéra. He practiced a neoclassical style that he used for classical as well as orientalist subjects. He made his name with a painting for the prince Napoléon (the emperor's brother), The Rehearsal of "The Flute Player" at the Home of the Prince Napoléon (1861, Musée National du Château et de Trianon, Versailles), representing the Pompeian interior of his residence in Paris that Boulanger's friend Gérôme decorated. Boulanger also undertook mural decoration in Paris for the mairie (city hall) of the thirteenth arrondissement as well as the foyer of the new opera house by Garnier.
In 1882 he was elected to the Institut, and he became head of a painting atelier in the École in 1885. In the early 1880s he published a pamphlet entitled To Our Students in which his conservative and elitist attitudes toward art allowed him to identify concretely the new trends in modern painting, "the search for originality," "the too widely spread and accessible expositions," and the respect for form replaced by "the interest . . . [in] the accident of form."1 Boulanger remained close to Gérôme. These two artists had greater success than the other Neo-grecs; they shared an interest in orientalist subjects (they made a trip together to the Middle East in 1872); and they belonged to the Institut and École. The year of Boulanger's death, art historian C. H. Stranahan called him "Gérôme's 'alter ego.' "2
1. Gustave Boulanger, A nos élèves (Paris, n.d.), 4-5. It is interesting that the pamphlet was published by Lahure at 9 Rue de Fleurus, just a few doors down from the Neo-grecs' former headquarters in Gérôme's studio.
2. C. H. Stranahan, A History of French Painting (New York, 1895), 319.
Jean-Louis Hamon came from a modest background but received a municipal stipend to study painting in Paris. He arrived in 1840 and, following the advice of Ingres (q.v.), entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1842 and Delaroche's atelier, which closed that year, with many of its students sent to Charles Gleyre (1806-1874). There he met Gérôme and Boulanger, with whom he became associated, in the critics' view, when he made his debut at the 1847 Salon. Hamon also worked as a designer at the royal porcelain manufacture at Sèvres from 1848 to 1853, thus providing himself with a more reliable income than he could expect from his paintings. Purchased by the Empress Eugénie for the imperial collection, his painting Ma soeur n'y est pas (1853) won him some fame and, after it was re-exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, the Legion of Honor as well. His popularity soon waned, however, and by 1862 his finan-cial straits induced him to leave for the island of Capri, where he remained until 1871, though he regularly sent work back to France. His subjects concentrated on classicizing genre scenes, mostly of young women, and he painted, like the mature Gleyre, in thin, delicate layers of subdued colors.
Claretie 1881. Claretie, Jules. J.-L. Hamon. Paris. 1881.
Hoffmann 1903. Hoffmann, E. J.-L. Hamon, peintre. Paris. 1903.
Tanouarn 1860. Tanouarn, Alfred de. "Les néo-grecs, Hamon." L'Artiste 9 (1860): 7-11.