Monday, December 24, 2018

Delacroix at the Met: The Painter as Polymath

sketch for "Lion Hunt" by Eugene Delacroix (1854)
Don’t fret if you miss the Delacroix Show at the Met. Two of the master's most famous works “Jacob Wrestling With the Angel” (1854-61) and “Heliodorus Driven From the Temple” grace the altar in Paris’s Saint-Sulpice, not to speak of “Saint Michael Slaying the Demon,” which adorns the church’s ceiling. “Studies for Jacob Wrestling with the Angel” are part of the current Met show. Delacroix was omnivorous and the current exhibit might be subtitled “The Painter as Polymath.” He produced portraits of animals as well as people and one can understand why so many classic protomodernist painters found inspiration in the palette of possibilities he offered. Flowers and coins, Byron and Sir Walter Scott were all on his workbench. He was obsessed with Faust as well as Macbeth (he produced 17 illustrations for Goethe's Faust) and, as Roberta Smith's Times review pointed out ("At the Met Museum, the Grand Enigmas of Delacroix," NYT, 9/13/18), his sketch for “Lion Hunt,” (1854) conjures a l9th century de Kooning. "The Death of Sandanapalus" (1827) underscores his painterly mastery of the historical pageant. The current exhibition is extensive and somewhat dizzying. Delacroix was all over the place and your head may spin as you attempt to grasp the breadth and ambition of both the painter's work and this particular show. 

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