51) Liberty leading the people by Eugene Delacroix 1798-1863
This painting was inspired by the revolution of 1848, that toppled King Charles X. Liberty leads the people of Paris over the bodies of some obliging dead soldiers. She carries the French tricolor with it's colors symbolizing liberty, equality and fraternity. This painting is, like the Raft of the Medusa, on display in the Louvre.
From an upper middle class background and well educated Delacroix, entered the studio of Pierre Narcisse Guerin where he met Gericault. He posed for one of the figures in the Raft of the Medusa. Gericault was a lifelong influence on Delacroix who became the leading French romantic painter. He was, like Gericault, strongly influenced by Rubens. His strong color and often violent or morbid themes were often shocking to people of the time. He was also very interested in English culture and read Lord Byron's work, doing many paintings of the Greek war that killed Byron. Delacroix also studied Constable and was an exponent of his art on the continent.
Many of Delacroix paintings are extreme and lurid, Above is the death of Sardanapalus. Inspired by a play of Lord Byron's, which told the story of Sardanapalus an Assyrians king, who upon learning of his military defeat had all of his possessions and a contingent of perfectly good sex slaves slaughtered before he committed suicide. This painting is twelve feet high and sixteen feet long, and is also in the Louvre. As unattractive as the subject matter is, the color is rich and luscious. It always reminded me of an oriental rug.
All of those writhing uncooperative sex slaves and murderous footmen lead the eye about the painting in the manner of Rubens. There are chains of influence that run through our art and here is an obvious one. Sardanapalus rests up on his couch as the mayhem swirls around him.
With Delacroix we have crossed a threshold, between old master painting and the modern. He represents a dividing line in this series of artists I am posting. From here forward we will see a different kind and era of art. Also starting with this era there is controversy concerning which artists are important and which are not. The contemporary school of artists and art historians tend to cherry pick their painters from this time forward. They select those which seem to best lead to the "modern" art of today.
I won't be doing that. I am, of course, a traditional painter, and I will present the painting history appropriate to that prejudice. I am going to present what is admittedly an alternative "take" on the history of painting going forward from this point. I will, for instance, present far more academic painting that Jansen's text. But I am going to attempt to trace the lineage backwards not from contemporary modern painting, but from contemporary traditional painting. A blog is not a standardized text and needn't be approved for great masses of students. It is narrowcasting and can be idiosyncratic. There's the caveat on what is to come. Don't hold your breath waiting for the Fauves.