From Saints to Sunsets: The Late Great Works of Delacroix

Eugene Delacroix - Horse Frightened by Lightning
Eugene Delacroix - Horse Frightened by Lightning Wikimedia Commons

In this bicentennial of his birth, master painter Eugene Delacroix became the tourist event of France, with several exhibitions of his works in Paris and six other cities around the country. Now America gets a generous sample of France's tribute, from September 15 to January 3, when the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts "Delacroix: The Late Work."

The name Delacroix conjures up operatic drama and romantic imagery — Virgil and Dante in Hell, marauding Turks and Arabs, Rebecca being swept off by abductors in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. The curators of this show, however, chose to focus on the artist's final labors, from 1848 to his death in 1863, a time when the master demonstrated the range of his talent by filling his canvases with lush still lifes of flowers and fruit, pretty landscapes and seascapes, and ravishing sunsets. He spent his last years brilliantly executing genres he had ignored early in his career.

 In his final years, Delacroix also repeated subjects, often rendering several versions of the same event. The Philadelphia show displays four variations of the Crucifixion and at least that many of Christ on the Sea of Galilee. Also on view are some of his "cat" pictures — luminous lions and tigers caught in predatory pursuit — and a smattering of works inspired by his trip to North Africa. Delacroix made the journey early in his life but drew on that region's subjects and themes until his death.

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