The American painter Jean-Leon Gerome Ferris was born in the largest city of the United States, Philadelphia. He was the son of portrait painter Stephen James Ferris, who trained him and named him after his icon, Jean-Léon Gérôme.
Young Ferris was brought up in an artistic household, and would also receive training from his uncles, Tomas and Edward Moran, who were both respected artists in the distinguished Hudson River School. His father also brought the work of Mariano Fortuny as a reference and inspiration.
Ferris began his formal training in 1879 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. During this period, Orientalism was in its peak, and the painter produced some works in this style.
Four years later, Ferris began to learn under, arguably, the most successful Academic painter of all time, William Adolphe Bouguereau, at the Academié Julian. This was a significant period in Ferris' career, as he was able to meet with the artist who deeply inspired him and his father, Jean-Léon Gérôme. This meeting influenced Ferris to portray subjects that are familiar to him, and he decided to focus on what the artist became most famous for, depicting scenes from American History.
The American artist created a reputation for himself as a historical painter by 1895, which enabled him to focus on this theme in depth. Some of his more notable works include a portrayal of Abraham Lincoln entitled The Gettysburg Address, a portrait of Betsy Ross, and the captivating scene, Writing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, only to name a few.
His view on historical scenes is very idealized, being somewhat criticized by the American Philosophical Society. The painting The Landing of William Penn is a beautiful example of a historical event interpreted and portrayed by Ferris. The First Thanksgiving is another example of this idealistic representation created by the artist.
Ferris' produced a series of historical paintings with a narrative which linked the works together. He sold the series to publishing companies, which helped popularize the artist's work by making postcards, calendars, laminated cards, and other prints with the series, which continued to be commercialized in the early 1980s.
In 1894, the artist married Amelia Ryder, and together they had a girl, Elizabeth Mary.
Jean-Leon Gerome Ferris passed away in 1930, at the age of 66 in his hometown.