Acis and Galatea
Date 1833
Artist:Antoine-Jean Gros, French, 1771-1835
Dimensions 51 x 63 1/2 in. (129.5 x 161.3 cm) Overall, Frame: 58 x 71 1/2 in. (147.3 x 181.6 cm)
Medium Oil on canvas
Credit Line Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.
Description This is an oil on canvas painting. The foreground introduces the viewer to the red draped lovers, Acis and Galatea, hiding in a grotto by the sea. Galatea holds her hands over her ears to smother the sound of the Cyclops Polyphemus announcing his love for her. Acis, the Shepherd, glances over his left shoulder as the Cyclops in the background draws nearer to their hiding place.
Exhibition HistorySalon, Paris, 1835. (Exhib. cat. no. 990).
"Gros, Ses Amis, Ses Elèves," Petit Palais, Paris, May - July 1936. (Exhib. cat. no. 101).
"Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon; Seattle Art Museum; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Minneapolis Art Institute; St. Louis City Art Museum; William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City; Detroit Institute of Arts; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, March 2, 1956 - April 14, 1957. (Exhib. cat. no. 74).
"Chrysler Art Museum of Provincetown Inaugural Exhibition," Provincetown, Massachusetts, 1958. (Exhib. cat. 25).
"French Paintings 1789-1929 from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.," Dayton Art Institute, March 25 - May 22, 1960. (Exhib. cat. no. 11).
"Veronese to Franz Kline: Masterworks from the Chrysler Museum at Norfolk," for the benefit of The Chrysler Museum Art Reference Library, Wildenstein & Co., New York, N. Y., April 13 - May 13, 1978. (Exhib. cat. no. 14).
"Seven Stages of Man," London Regional Art Gallery, London, Ontario, May 3 - June 15, 1980.
"French Paintings from The Chrysler Museum," North Carolina Museum of Art, May 31 - Sept. 14, 1986; Birmingham Museum of Art, Nov. 6, 1986 - Jan. 18, 1987. (Exhib. cat. no. 16).
"Ancient Gold Jewelry from the Dallas Museum of Art," Chrysler Museum of Art, Feb. 24 - May 21, 2000.
"Reopening of the Joan P. Brock Galleries," Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Va., Opening in March of 2008.
Published ReferencesBertina S. Manning. _Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.: An Exhibition Organized by the Portland Art Museum, Oregon. Portland: Portland Art Association. 1956. No. 74.
Bertina S. Manning. _Chrysler Art Museum of Provincetown Inaugural Exhibition_. Provincetown, Massachusetts: Chrysler Art Museum of Provincetown. 07/1958: no. 25.
Priscilla C. Colt and Charles H. Elam. _French Paintings 1789-1929 from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr._. Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio. 1960. No.11.
Mario Amaya. "Contrasts and Comparisons in French Nineteenth Century Painting," _Apollo_. 107: 194. 04/1978: pp. 16-25, ill.
Eric M. Zafran and Mario Amaya. _Veronese to Franz Kline: Masterworks from the Chrysler Museum at Norfolk_. Norfolk, VA: The Chrysler Museum. 1978. No. 14.
Chrysler Museum. _Selections from the Permanent Collection: The Chrysler Museum_. Norfolk, VA: Chrysler Museum of Art. 1982: p. 54.
Jefferson C. Harrison. "Nineteenth-Century French Art - Part I," _The Chrysler Museum Gallery Guide_. Norfolk, VA: Chrysler Museum. 1985. No. 1.
Jefferson C. Harrison. _French Paintings from the Chrysler Museum_. The Chrysler Museum. 1986. No. 75.
Jefferson C. Harrison. _The Chrysler Museum Handbook of the European and American Collections: Selected Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings_. The Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA, 1991. Page 97, no. 75.
David O'Brien, _After the Revolution: Antoine-Jean Gros, Painting and Propaganda Under Napoleon_ (Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006) p. 229 - 231 fig. 146.
Eric M. Zafran, "Norfolk's Salon Masterworks Shine Again," _Fine Art Connoisseur_, November-December 2014, 46.
Inscriptions Signed and dated lower right: Gros. 1833
Provenance The artist, 1833-1835; the artist's atelier sale, Paris, Nov. 23, 1835 (cat. no. 22); Urvoy de Saint Bedan, Paris, 1835-1863; Jean-Baptiste Delestre, Paris, 1863-71; Delestre sale, Paris, Oct. 13-14, 1871 (cat. no. 3); M. Dinin, Paris, 1936; Kochitz-Kalmaznine, Paris, 1954; Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.; Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. to the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, 1971.
Current Location Chrysler Museum of Art, Gallery 208
Catalog Entry Antoine-Jean Gros French, 1771-1835 Acis and Galatea, 1833 Oil on canvas, 51½" x 64" (130.8 x 162.6 cm) Signed and dated lower right: _Gros. 1833_ Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 71.2080 Reference: Harrison, _CM_, 1986, no. 16. Gros originally achieved fame in Paris as one of Napoleon's principal painters, glorifying the emperor and his military exploits in a series of vast, heroic canvases. In these works he employed a style inspired less by the Neoclassicism of his revered teacher Jacques-Louis David than by the paintings of Rubens (no. 16), which he had studied during his years in Italy (1793-1800). Gros' style, with its passionate emotion and vibrant colors, was hailed by the rising generation of French Romantic painters. The most famous of his Napoleonic history paintings, _The Pesthouse at Jaffa_ (Louvre, Paris), was the highlight of the 1804 Salon; with it, Gros' reputation was secured. Despite his success, Gros became increasingly worried that he had abandoned the lofty principles of David's art for what he called the "impertinence and vagabondage" of Romantic style, and with David's death in 1825, he sensed the need to return to an art more strictly aligned to the Neoclassicism of his former mentor. This reversion to an older, and no longer fashionable, manner isolated Gros from many of his earlier supporters, and his art became the object of mounting criticism. The crisis came at the 1835 Salon. There Gros exhibited two works of decidedly classical style and subject matter - _Hercules and Diomedes_ (Musée des Augustins, Toulouse) and _Acis and Galatea_, which the artist had painted in David's memory two years before. The devastating critical response caused Gros to fall into a deep depression, and, soon thereafter, he drowned himself in the Seine. Today Gros is rightly recognized as the crucial link "between the austere and learned classicism of his teacher David and the more colorful Romanticism of...Delacroix" (Francis Broun). Gros took the mythological subject of _Acis and Galatea_ from a passage in Ovid's _Metamorphoses_ (13:738-897). In it the nymph Galatea is courted by the hideous Cyclops, Polyphemus, whose love she spurns for that of the shepherd Acis. To proclaim his love, the Cyclops makes music upon his pipes, while Acis and Galatea hide nearby listening. The giant soon spies the pair and, raging with jealousy, crushes Acis beneath a boulder. In Gros' painting the terror-stricken lovers, concealed in a cave at water's edge, cower at the approach of Polyphemus, who stalks the countryside blowing his horn. Gros' critics balked at the painting's melodramatic tone. They complained, too, that its figures lacked grace, but conceded that they were effectively drawn. In truth, both figures were modeled upon antique sculptural prototypes: Galatea's pose recalls that of the so-called "Crouching Aphrodite," while Acis' suggests the stance of a combative Hercules. The painting and two preliminary drawings (locations unknown) were dispersed during the posthumous sale of Gros' studio in November of 1835. In 1863 the picture was acquired by Jean-Baptiste Delèstre, a former student of Gros who authored the first biography of the artist. Jefferson C. Harrison. _The Chrysler Museum Handbook of the European and American Collections: Selected Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings_. The Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA, 1991. Page 97, no. 75.
Object Label Antoine-Jean Gros French, 1771–1835 Acis and Galatea, 1833 Oil on canvas The lovers Acis and Galatea cower in a cave. They’re hiding from Galatea’s rejected suitor, the cyclops Polyphemus, who can be seen terrorizing the countryside with murder in his eye. While the story is drawn from ancient Roman literature, the anxious tone reflects the modern interest in the sublime—an emotional state characterized by both horror and awe. The figures’ idealized nudity and billowing garments are typical of Antoine-Jean Gros’ Neoclassical style. Yet, by the time he showed the painting in Paris, younger critics had begun to reject the style, and they condemned this work as old fashioned. Devastated, Gros fell into a depression and drowned himself in the River Seine. Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. 71.2080
Object Number 71.2080