NEW YORK, NY.- Jill Newhouse Gallery
is presenting the first gallery exhibition in New York in over forty years of the works of Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863).
Timed to coincide with two major exhibitions of the artists work at the Metropolitan Museum, the show includes works in all media- oil, watercolor, ink, pencil and pastel- and spans Delacroixs entire career, illustrating the principal themes and aesthetic concerns of his extraordinary oeuvre. Orientalist subjects appear in several rare watercolors from the artists seminal North African journey of 1832. Spiraling figures and gyrating wild beasts are portrayed with Delacroixs unique gestural draftsmanship. Ecorchés, or flayed anatomical studies, show the importance of the traditional artistic training he received, while revealing Delacroix's genius in creating compositions. Copies after Rembrandt, Rubens, and Goya point to Delacroixs lifelong admiration for the masters of the past and his research into the lessons they offered. Included as well are preparatory works for some of the landmark projects of Delacroixs career: drawings for illustrated books by Goethe and Shakespeare, and compositional sketches for the monumental paintings decorating the Paris state buildings such as the Palais Bourbon, Hôtel de Ville, and Palais du Luxembourg.
As one of the greatest masters of 19th century painting, Delacroix was the leading proponent of Romanticism, a movement which valued the expression of raw emotion in the vigorous and energetic depiction of both contemporary and exotic subjects.
Delacroix was a constant draughtsman, and the full range of his process and his subject matters is on view in the dawings in this exhibition.
His trip to North Africa in 1832 with a French diplomatic envoy introduced him to the light and color of the Arab world, and inspired many of the painters best known works, bringing the Orient alive to art-viewing Parisians. Examples of the drawings done outside en pleine air are found here in catalogue numbers 7 through 10. Delacroixs iconic images of animals are as radical for their formal qualities as they are for their expressiveness, and are seen here in the turbulent depictions of lions, llamas, and horses (cat 26 - 36). His free and expressionistic copies of Old Masters like Rubens and Rembrandt show us the the creative lens through which he saw the world.
The exhibition catalogue is organized around excerpts from the Delacroixs reknowned Journal, a notebook of writings which he kept throughout his life recording his love of painting, literature, and music. He instructed his trustees to publish the Journal after his death. As Arlette Serullaz points out in her essay, Delacroix also wanted his drawings to be sold only after his death, hoping that such a large unified presentation of his art would provide a defense against those who had criticized his seemingly spontaneous and improvisational style. His estate sale was a crowded and frenetic affair revealing what contemporary writers described as the inexhaustible abundance of the master, the variety of his motifs, and the furious determination with which he rendered
the subjects that had inspired him.
Furious, frentic, emotional, intellectual, vibrant, and rebellious, Delacroixs work signaled a new direction in art, one that placed the highest value on form and surface as the vehicle of expression. His art has again become inspirational to contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst, Cecily Brown, Walton Ford, and Kara Walker all of whom have recently referenced him in their work.
A fully illustrated digital and printed catalogue is available with an essay by Arlette Sèrullaz. Director of the Musée Delacroix, Paris from 1984-2006; honorary Curator, Department of Graphic Arts, Louvre Museum; and noted specialist in European 19th century drawings.