Review: Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art, National Gallery

The National Gallery’s exhibition examining the influence of Eugene Delacroix on other artists is absorbing and detailed from beginning to end. 

Bathers, 1854
Bathers,1854, Eugene Delacroix. (c)Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1952.

Delacroix at the beginning of his last diary entry claimed that painting should primarily be a “feast for the eyes”and his argument is more than amply proved in this exquisite exhibition at the National Gallery.

Filled with quotes from the artist himself as well as other artist’s impressions of him, this display of his work reveals how he managed to influence many other artists in terms of his technique and attitude towards painting.

Sadly, although Delacroix was idolised by many artists that people today are still familiar with such as Picasso, Renoir and Manet, Delacroix’s work is not as easily recognised by people today.

With this exhibition, the National Gallery has provided an opportunity to readdress that balance, by creating a compare and contrast feel to the display – matching every Delacroix painting with at least one painting by a different artist hugely influenced by him.

It is a hugely successful technique, as it makes the visitor admire the work of Delacroix even more knowing that his fellow artists felt that they had something to learn from the way in which he worked.

There is a wide celebration of colour in Delacroix’s work that captures the attention of the viewer – particularly in pieces such as Bathers that captures the imagination of the viewer with its mystical vibe and bold colours. His attention to detail is exquisite – particularly when it comes to the human form.

The wide variety of subjects that he decided to paint was never limited, and this exhibition effortlessly covers them all.

It is a short and concise exhibition that gets straight to the point and doesn’t waste time in arguing that this is an artist who definitely deserves to be known by a wider audience, with its snippets of information on how he managed to influence other artists – even up to forty years after his death.

Thoughtful and a lovely tribute to an intelligent painter, Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art is well worth a look.

Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art opens to the public on the 17th February, running until the 22nd May. 



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