Tim Marlow is currently presenting an interesting series about great artists on Channel 5, the series is enjoying a rerun and last night his subject was Delacroix. I was delighted when he opened the little Phaidon edition of the Journal and read from it. The same edition that graces my bookshelf and which I also turn to from time to time. It takes real determination to write a journal and there are periods when Delacroix never wrote a word. So his journal has several gaps whether this was due to pressure of work or because he had little to say is uncertain. Well in this respect I’m in good company - this is the first entry in my blog since September 2003. 2004 begins with a resolve to pick up the thread again.
Viewing the Delacroix programme again I was struck by the strange preoccupations of 19th Century Romantic painting. The massacres, noble suicides, violent revolution, and voyeuristic glimpses into harems. Uncomfortable subjects hardly enjoyable to contemplate. Better perhaps to simply look at how the paint is handled, It is now easy now to understand why the Impressionists admired Delacroix vigorous free handling of paint – a revolutionary change from the tight handling of the French classical tradition. Those raindrops he painted with juxtaposed touches of rainbow hues are also prophetic. The idea of exploiting the optical blending of primaries did not occur again until it was developed by Seurat and the Divisionists.