‘Delacroix’ at the Met
“Color is Eugène Delacroix’s hero,” writes Jed Perl. “He fights for color. He lives for color. His oil paintings are luxurious orchestrations of feverish reds, velvety blues, dusky purples, astringent oranges, and shimmering greens. In his works on paper, some of the same colors, presented as isolated elements, become refreshingly austere. There is nothing that this giant of nineteenth-century French painting cannot do with color. If his art is uneasy, it’s because his color is never easy. He flirts with chromatic chaos. He yearns for chromatic catharsis. “The very sight of my palette,” he once wrote, “freshly set out with the colors in their contrasts is enough to fire my enthusiasm.” However alien we may find some of his gaudy fantasies and megalomaniacal ambitions, there is no question that he is an artist who knows how to fill our eyes.
For this man who loved to make watercolor studies of the patterns of North African textiles, color was the magic carpet that liberated his subjects, turning fixed facts into open-ended themes and variations. Nowhere is this more true than in Women of Algiers in Their Apartment (1834), which is without a doubt the linchpin of the exhibition at the Metropolitan. We are lucky that it is here, since some of Delacroix’s most important works, included in the larger version of the exhibition that was seen at the Louvre—among them Liberty Leading the People and the thirteen-foot-high Death of Sardanapalus—have not made the trip to New York.
To accompany the Delacroix retrospective, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has mounted a separate exhibition of the artist’s works on paper. “Devoted to Drawing” showcases the collection of more than 130 works that Karen B. Cohen is giving to the museum. Presented with beautiful straightforwardness in a series of three well-lit galleries, the Delacroix drawing show invites museumgoers to engage with the artist’s processes in ways that are well-nigh impossible given the overbearing presentation of the retrospective.”
For more information visit metmuseum.org.
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