Prepare yourself for an outstanding experience if you go to the magnificent Met exhibition of works by French painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). The show, scheduled from September 17, 2018 to January 6, 2019, ranks among the renowned museum’s most illustrious events. It is the first Delacroix retrospective in North America and was organized with the Musée du Louvre in Paris. Nearly 150 of the artist’s works, including prints and drawings in addition to his stunning paintings, are on display.
It is intriguing to see the extent to which Delacroix was inspired by literature, such as writing by Shakespeare, Lord Byron and Walter Scott. Delacroix’s art, organized and displayed to reflect different periods of his life, ranges from his most intimate works to his huge, impressive achievements. (Some of his murals are too large to have been shipped here for this display.) The museum reports that research involved in selecting his work included surveying more than 800 paintings, eight thousand drawings, one hundred prints and many written pages.
You will find your own favorites as you amble through the exhibit. One especially striking work is his “Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.” There is also a very expressive expression on the face of the subject in another work, “Head of an Old Greek Woman.” His renderings of Christ on the cross are extremely poignant. One can also be deeply moved by his stark “Medea About to Kill Her Children.”
Delacroix ventured into action paintings, vivid scenes of battle, in which he showed the effect on horses as well as combatants. He was especially adept at giving a feeling of live action in some of his military works.
We can also see many paintings devoted to animals, as with his arresting painting of a tiger, as well as a number of others addressing the animal world. One, “The Lion Hunt” conveys a mass of turbulent struggle.
Delacroix spent a period in Morocco and Algeria, and a particularly fascinating painting is “Women of Algiers in Their Apartment.” On studying the painting one can be struck by the meticulousness he achieves in the delicacy with which he paints an array of materials, in addition to his expertise in conveying the expressions on the faces of his three women subjects.
One can also discover nude studies, including a rear view of a “Male Academy Figure,” “A Female Academy Figure Seated, Front View” and “Reclining Female Nude, Back View.”
The exhibit also includes self-portraits and Delacroix appears quite handsome in these takes on how he saw himself.
Should you go, I suggest you allow plenty of time, as there is so very much to take in. If you rush you will miss a lot-- this is an exhibit that especially requires you to pace yourself. Ideally it would be best to plan more than one visit.
Among the comments shown by other artists about Delacroix’s paintings is a famous one offered by Picasso, who said with apparent envy, “That Bastard. He’s really good.” This showing is not likely to make one disagree. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue. Phone: 212-535-7710. Posted September 16, 2018.