Review: Delacroix and the Rise of the Modern Art

En route to the National Gallery on a chilly first day of March, I was re-checking the DM on my twitter for the details of the night's private event. The first time I read that direct message from the National Gallery press team, it hit me with excitement, surprise and curiosity altogether.
'Delacroix....?' I thought to myself. 
'Did I even pronounce it right?'

Eugène Delacroix
Self Portrait, about 1837
Musée du Louvre, Paris (RF 25)
© RMN-Grand Palais (musĂ©e du Louvre) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

I only know little about art, [like MS Paint], but I have come across household names of artists such as Van Gogh, Manet, Matisse...except Delacroix. This is what the exhibition brings to the visitors, the discovery of the artist whom a generation of young artists turned to for study and inspiration. The master is described by Baudelaire 'a poet in painting', as he splashes with colour and invents new painting styles. The self-taught painter broke norms and rules, and he experimented into pushing the boundaries of creativity.

Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)
Olive Trees, 1889
© The Minneapolis Institute of Art
The William Hood Dunwoody Fund 51.7
As Delacroix wrote on his journal 'I dislike reasonable painting', and that is exactly his work's unofficial slogan. Called a rebel and a revolutionary, he was described by peers and critics of the time as both exotic and dangerous. One of his submissions to the Paris Salon, The Death of Sardanapalus, was heavily ridiculed and condemned for being too 'shocking', 'inconsistent composition', and 'too violent.' [He probably was Quentin Tarantino of the 19th Century.] Definitely fitting for an avant garde master.

Eugène Delacroix
The Death of Sardanapalus (reduced replica), 1846
© Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania
The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986 (1986-26-17)

Delacroix travelled to North Africa and most notably in Morocco in 1832. That visit would be influencing his future works and later on emulated by artists such as Renoir, Gauguin, and Matisse. 
I was very fortunate to have visited Morocco and as Delacroix loved vibrant colours, I imagined him exuding with joy with all the feast on his eyes could glance upon.

Eugène Delacroix
Convulsionists of Tangier, 1837-8
© The Minneapolis Institute of Art
Bequest of J. Jerome Hill 73.42.3
His work The Convultionists of Tangiers is a great testament of the genius of Delacroix: bold, full of emotion, exotic and pleasing. But what struck to me the most is that he painted this as if he was witnessing it, instead he painted this many years after that Morocco visit. He painted it from his memory, it was a filtered recollection on what he experienced. 

Christopher Riopelle, National Gallery Curator of Post-1800 Paintings said: 'The opportunity to reintroduce a stunningly original and audacious artist to the British public after far too long makes this an exciting exhibition. But to also show Delacroix as a leader among his contemporaries and a spur to creativity among artists for 50 years after his death- up to the time of Matisse and Kardinsky- reaffirms his central role in the development of modern art.'

The exhibit includes over 60 works from various private and public collections all over the globe, including Paris' MuseĂ© de Louvre, Los Angeles' J. Paul Getty Museum, and Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum. It is organised by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the National Gallery, London. 

The 19th century master is certainly a passionate, trailblazing inspiration for the modern times. This is a rare event that will revolutionise your senses. 

The #Delacroix exhibition is at the National Gallery, Sainsbury Wing until 22nd May 2016. 

Image credits:
1. Eugène Delacroix Self Portrait, about 1837 Oil on canvas 65 x 54.5 cm MusĂ©e du Louvre, Paris (RF 25) © RMN-Grand Palais (musĂ©e du Louvre) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi
2. Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890) Olive Trees, 1889 Oil on canvas 73.7 x 92.7 cm © The Minneapolis Institute of Art The William Hood Dunwoody Fund 51.7
3. Eugène Delacroix The Death of Sardanapalus (reduced replica), 1846 Oil on canvas 73.7 x 82.4 cm © Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986 (1986-26-17)
4. Eugène Delacroix Convulsionists of Tangier, 1837-8 Oil on canvas 97.8 x 131.3 cm © The Minneapolis Institute of Art Bequest of J. Jerome Hill 73.42.3

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