“Glory is not an empty word for me,” wrote the young Eugène Delacroix. As the brilliant survey of his career at the Louvre in Paris shows, he achieved the goal he desperately wanted and remained famous throughout his lifetime and to our day. But renown and repute are different. His significance has waxed and waned in relation to the unwieldy, hard-to-define, easy-to-love and easy-to-hate epoch we call Romanticism. Delacroix was also the premier iconographer of the French state, the painter of the Louvre’s Liberty Leading the People (1831); his wagon was hitched to political stars that also rose and fell.
It is just as well the museum waited 50 years after his last survey to give him another, Delacroix (1798-1863), which runs until 23 July. We are freer now more than ever from the dictatorship of “periods” such as Neoclassicism, its purported enemy and antidote, Romanticism, and the many movements that followed starting with Impressionism, which Delacroix helped to foment. This is a salubrious development for art lovers, especially for those looking at Delacroix. He transcended movements and schools. This exhibition proves he was good at everything and nothing was the same in his wake. Read more