In 1767 Diderot was all enthusiasm: 'why does a fine sketch please us more than a fine painting? because there's more life in it , and less formality. '
Ary Scheffer, one of the Romantic masters, lived for twenty years in what is now the Musée de la Vie Romantique
, on Rue Chaptal in Paris. In 1830 he built two studios in which a crucial part of his oeuvre would be thought through, composed and executed. In these former studios visitors find themselves reflecting on how a picture develops before being made public.
Here we are ushered into this intimate aspect of creativity by an exhibition including such remarkable loans as fifteen works by Eugène Delacroix who died 150 years ago from the Musée National Delacroix, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lille, the Musée dOrsay and the Petit Palais in Paris. The exhibition highlights some of the most outstanding Romantic 'sketchers': among them are Léon Cogniet, whose studio collection is held by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Orléans and, naturally, Ary Scheffer, thanks to the generosity of the museum in his native city of Dordrecht, in Holland. In addition the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, a treasure trove of 'student works', has provided a panorama of neglected winning entries from its intramural competitions.
The painted sketch is one of the steps in the picture-making process, allowing the artist to try things out on a small scale before moving on to the full-sized work. Its primary function, then, is to establish the composition; but since the mid-18th century it has almost become a genre in its own right, defined by rapid, spontaneous brushwork.
The exhibition comprises a hundred sketches: early forms of now famous works; variations on paintings that testify to the choices made by the painter or the person commissioning the work; or projects that never came to fruition.