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ON GÉRÔME, BOUGUEREAU, INGRES, AND “THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOKS ON,” NOTES FROM A JOURNAL

. . . I WENT TO WASHINGTON to see the Bonnard and Watteau exhibitions but came away utterly absorbed by a Gérôme—Egyptian Recruits Crossing the Desert, 1857. It was being shown at the National Gallery in an exhibition called “The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse.” The principal orientalist painters were, of course, the so-called academics, and these would include not only the French and English painters, but Americans like Frederic Church and Sanford R. Gifford. The former’s academic side, which I suspect American chauvinism has obscured, is very evident in his Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, 1870, a melodramatically illuminated panoramic view in which the echoes of Thomas Cole are assimilated into Church’s illustrative style to make a painting at odds with the near sublimity of effect that Church usually aimed for. Yet Gérôme’s picture, and those of the academic orientalists generally,

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