Delacroix and the Second French Revolution
So at last I am getting to Delacroix, as promised several weeks ago. Though in fact, I am going to feature Delacroix and his great rival Ingres, inheritor of the Mantle of David as the defender of classical orthodoxy. As I've said before, I think the art of this period is vastly enriched by its context in history, both social and aesthetic. I've called the period the "second French revolution"; in fact, in Paris at least, it was a period of continual upheaval. The Parisian populace took to the streets at the least provocation, tearing up the coblestones and bringing the city to a halt. Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the people" marks the major uprising in 1830. In fact, so ungovernable was the city that in mid century Housmann was commissioned to build the great Parisian avenues... primarily to allow the movement of cavalry within the city.
Art for war's sake.
But if the first revolution was primarily social and political, the second was primarily artistic. Delacroix was revolting against the strictures of the French Academy, led by Ingres, for whom the classical tradition was a religion. In fact, his hatred of Delacroix took on biblical overtones: he claimed he could smell fire and brimstone when Delacroix was in the room. Ingres himself was no slouch. He was an exquisite draughtsman, with a subtlety and refinement that has never been surpassed. His portrait of Mme. D'Haussonville is an excellent example of his work: drawing is dominant, color is wonderful but always subservient to the form. If we compare this to the portrait of Chopin by Delacroix, the contrast is total: line plays no part, and refinement is replaced by directness and power.
Perhaps the best way to understand the vast gulf between the approach of the two rivals is through their drawings. When we look at Ingres' drawings, we see him at his best. The sensitivity of his line is astounding, tone is barely indicated andthen only through...