Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review : Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art at the National Gallery – 17th February to 22nd May 2016

Exhibition Review : Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art at the National Gallery – 17th February to 22nd May 2016

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The National Gallery presents Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art, the first major exhibition of Delacroix’s art in Britain for more than 50 years. The exhibition explores Delacroix’s remarkable career and his influence on the generations of artists that followed him.

Eugène Delacroix was one of the most famous and controversial French painters of the first half of the 19th century and this exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to better understand the work of this influential artist. It will include over 60 works borrowed from 30 major public and private collections around the world.

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Delacroix from the beginning of his career was an artist that divided opinion, his first submission to the Paris Salon in 1822, Barque of Dante was derided by the critics and the public, yet was later purchased by the French State. This pattern of opposition and support continued throughout Delacroix’s career.

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Delacroix travelled to England in 1825 where he visited the studios of Thomas Lawrence and Richard Parkes Bonington. English painting influenced his full-length portrait of Louis-Auguste Schwiter. Greatly influenced by the works of Peter Paul Rubens, his classical and religious themes are full of violence and sensuality illustrated here by his The Death of Sardanapalus and  The Lion Hunt.

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Delacroix always liked the exotic and his trip to Morocco in 1832 would provide subject matter for many of his future paintings which included The Convulsionists of Tangiers , A Moroccan mounting his Horse  and View of Tangier with figures .

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The exhibition illustrates that Delacroix, although best known for his large dramatic pieces was equally skilled with still life and landscapes. Within the rooms that illustrate this expertise is works from later artists who had often looked at Delacroix for inspiration. Delacroix’s Basket of Fruit in a Flower Garden shares a room with Van Gogh’s Still Life with Meadow Flowers with Rose, Gauguin’s A Vase of Flowers and Courbet’s The Trellis.

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In the Landscape room, Delacroix’s Landscape near Champrosay  shares the room with Van Gogh’s enigmatic Olive Trees and Cezanne’s River Landscape.

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If Delacroix’s work was universally not accepted when he was alive, after his death in 1863, generations of artists began to explore his work and especially his vivid and dramatic use of colour. Although it is difficult to consider how much influence an artist may have  on later generations, there is little doubt that Delacroix  was greatly admired by artists such as Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Matisse.

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This is a fascinating exhibition that provides plenty of evidence that the work of Delacroix has generally been overlooked in the United Kingdom in the past fifty years and that his influence on later generations as been underplayed. If this has been the case, visitors to the exhibition can make their own minds up by comparing Delacroix’s works with a large number from some of the great names of modern art.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the National Gallery Website here

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