Review: Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art


Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art, at the National Gallery in London, was an interesting exhibition which made connections among various artists throughout decades, and the influence each had on each other, in this case, of course, focusing on Delacroix. The exhibition began with an introductory video exploring the premise behind the exhibition, as well as a good overview of Delacroix’s career and approach to art, including his approaches to colour theory, and the effects that the publishing of his journals in 1893 had on the art world and other artists. This video was a fantastic introduction to what was to come, emphasized by the short introductory text, ending with a quote from Cezanne: “You can find Delacroix in all of us”

The exhibition focused on making connections, and placing Delacroix within the other big names of art history. Beginning with Delacroix’s career itself, and describing the influence of Rubens, the exhibition then moved to make connection with Delacroix’s contemporaries and successors. I found that the connections made throughout were variously successful. While the show, for example, shows Delacroix’s copy of a Rubens, and explains the influence, the Rubens is not present, whether the original or an image, so the comparison cannot be done yourself. In other places, however, the comparisons are much more evident, such as with Van Gogh’s Pieta, 1889, which is explained that Van Gogh had Black and White copies of a Delacroix, and this was his interpretation of the colours that might be present in the original, or in cases which showed Delacroix’s work side by side with those works it directly influenced.


Connections were also obviously being made to previous National Gallery exhibitions, namely the Rubens and Inventing Impressionism, which focused on the role of art dealer and collector Paul Durand-Ruel. While it was not necessary to have seen these exhibitions, I feel that anyone who did had added layers of context for this exhibition.

Otherwise, text and spacing was a bit awkward in places, as it always seems to be in large blockbuster exhibitions, and where films were playing with the exhibition itself, seating seemed inadequate- there was a film about some murals, but only seating for 4 people.

Overall, an enjoyable exhibition- it’s always interesting to see what connections can be made. Artists and events tend to be viewed in isolation, but exhibitions like this demonstrate how interconnected things can really be.

To learn more about the exhibition, you can view a playlist from the National Gallery, exploring the exhibition as a whole, various themes, and specific works.


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