Saturday, 10 July 2010

Gerome and Knight's review

I'm not local or loaded enough to see the Gerome show at the Getty.

I was just reading the below-linked rather scathing review by Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times. Knight accuses Gerome of inventing the 'sword and sandals' genre that is now has its home in Hollywood epics. There is some truth in this although the implication that this is somehow a low-brow 'populist' manifestation represents only modernist critical snobbery, and a warped set of artistic priorities. Why should drama, history, spectacle and narrative content be banished from the art gallery and exiled to the cinema? It makes no sense to me. I have often said, indeed, that the movie industry is the true heir of the great western art tradition, that which the modernist artists and critics consciously sought to bring to an end. Contrary to Knight's opinion it seems to be this lot rather than the classicists who lack a clue. Thanks to the denigration of the likes of Gerome a world of skill and knowledge was all-but-lost.

Knight accuses Gerome of a 'disengagement with art's possibilities.' A prejudice aginst the academic painters is revealed throughout Knight's review. An example is the irrelevant note that the winners of the Prix de Rome were always males. In fact one of the most notable winners, Bouguereau, would later do much to open up academic studios to female students (and eventually married one). There were as many female classical painters as there were in any other movement, many of them very successful.

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