Review: Delacroix At His Best At The National Gallery

Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art, The National Gallery ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 27 months ago
Review: Delacroix At His Best At The National Gallery Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art, The National Gallery 5
The writing figures and energy in this scene is trademark Delacroix. © Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania

Men on foot and horseback hunt two lions. The big cats snarl in defiance as they pin a horse and a man to the floor. The hunters ready their spears and swords to deliver the killing blow, as one of their own lies fallen in the background. It's a scene filled with an incredibly intense energy. It's Delacroix at his finest.

There are several evocative works by this great artist scattered throughout the exhibition, and they are a reminder of why Delacroix is so highly regarded. His greatest works may be in his native France but the National Gallery has managed to get their hands on a range of works that capture the variety in his portfolio.

But this exhibition is not just about Delacroix, it's about his legacy and the artists he inspired. Some are more obvious than others — Renoir's sumptuous style clearly owes a lot to his predecessor. But what about the rest?

The link to Cezanne may be less blatant, but this disconnect is easily overcome by placing a Delacroix next to a Cezanne. The former's bathers in a lake is clearly mirrored in an equivalent painting by Cezanne. This superb hang really draws out the links to other artists, creating a compelling narrative.

The pick of the rest is a stunning Van Gogh of olive trees basking in a bright yellow sunshine. In addition there are works by Manet, Matisse, Gauguin and Monet to marvel at.

But the true star of this show is Delacroix, in what is easily the best exhibition we've seen this year.

This stunning Van Gogh is the pick of the non-Delacroix paintings. © The Minneapolis Institute of Art
Renoir's style clearly owes a debt to Delacroix. As seen in this scene of a Jewish wedding in Morocco. © Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts
This Cezanne is an homage to Delacroix, with the man himself in the painting. © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay)
Delacroix, this time depicting Christ in the sea of Galilee. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art is on at The National Gallery until 22 May. Tickets are £14 for adults, concessions available.

Last Updated 17 February 2016

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