Thu, 22. May 2016 National Gallery London

HOMMAGE TO THE PIONEER OF IMPRESSIONISM

Delacroix in the mirror of his contemporaries

For Cézanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, Manet, Renoir and many other young artists of his time, Delacroix was an artistic role model – although he earned lots of criticism for his unconventional painting style during his life time.

Eugène Delacroix has been a French Romanticist, and many Impressionists, whose works in parts became more famous than the large role model, oriented themselves to his art. But the painter, born in Paris in 1798, can fully be seen as the pioneer of Impressionism, who turned away from Classicism early and who, already in 1832, let himself be inspired by the radiant light and the strong colors on his first trip to Morocco. His pictures that were created afterwards show a large variety in colorfulness and indicate his exact observation of the changing illumination. These were the first signs of Impressionism.

The curators of the National Gallery have collected paintings from all over the world to show the work of the artist and his influence on the Modern art in the exhibition “Delacroix and the rise of Modern art”. Only the really monumental masterpieces of the French painter like the painting “Liberty Leading the People” from 1830 from the Louvre are missing, because they could not be borrowed for conservational reasons. Still: the juxtaposition of his later, smaller versions and of works of the following generation that was inspired by Delacroix, show so far unseen and graphic comparisons. For example, in the exhibition, Paul Cézanne’s “The Bathers” hangs next to Delacroix’s painting of the same name from about 20 years earlier. Not only the compositions are similar, but the tone and light in the pictures are comparable as well.

The exhibition ends with Wassily Kandinsky’s “Study for Improvisation V” from 1910 and with that shows the direct link between the Romantic painter and the roots of abstraction. With comparisons like this, the exhibition clearly demonstrates that Impressionism would be impossible without Delacroix and his importance reaches into the 20th century. The exhibition is on display at the London National Gallery until May 22nd, 2016.

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