Henri de Gervex (1852-1929)
Gervex artistic education began with the Prix de Rome winner Pierre Brisset. He then studied under Alexandre Cabanel at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Gervex's first Salon picture was a Sleeping Bather in 1873: the nude, both in modern and mythological settings, was to remain one of his central artistic preoccupations. In 1876 he painted Autopsy in the Htel-Dieu, the sort of medical group portrait he repeated in 1887 with his Dr Pean Demonstrating at the Saint-Louis Hospital his Discovery of the Hemostatic Clamp.
Gervex's most controversial picture was Rolla, refused by the Salon of 1878 on grounds of indecency, partly because of the cast-off corset Degas had insisted he include. The painting shows the central character in a de Musset poem, Jacques Rolla, who, having dissipated his family inheritance, casts a final glance at the lovely sleeping form of the prostitute Marion before hurling himself out of the window. As his friend, Manet, had done the year before with his rejected Nana, Gervex exhibited his work in a commercial gallery, with great success.
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