Lions take center stage in a number of compositions Jean-Léon Gérôme painted throughout the 1880s. At the time, paintings and sculptures by French animalier artists were increasing in popularity among the general public. However, Gérôme’s interest in the subject dated to his student years, when he regularly went to the zoo in Paris to sketch lions. A safari in North Africa in 1885 further fueled his fascination with the animal. It was there that his zeal for exotic subjects and the desert terrain took root. This sketchy and sun-filled landscape of a drinking lion is actually an unfinished composition—the artist’s underdrawing in black ink is still visible.
Label from Menagerie: Animals on View, March 11–June 4, 2017