Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Delacroix, Rubens and me

This last week I have enjoyed rereading a book I have owned for several years and that I occasionally refer to when I am almost ready to begin on new work. It is

The Journal of Eugene Delacroix   republished by Phaidon in 1995.

Here it is on my bedside shelves. I always particularly enjoy reading the thoughts of artists and Delacroix was almost as famous in his day for his writing as his painting. He was an innovator in his work but possessed a deep sense of tradition which is what expressly interests me. Reading the journal you can trace the maturing of his ideas as a painter but you also get a sense of the man as well, playing his violin in the evenings and worrying about the cut of his coat or, more accurately, chastising himself for worrying about it. He has an intimate knowledge of the works of the old masters and I love the way he ruminates about the things he is learning from them. He is always so actively looking, deliberating and producing.
He states
"Rembrandt is a far greater painter Raphael"
but that
"Rembrandt may not quite have had Raphael's nobility of mind".
He also has the highest respect for Rubens which of course endears him to me as I believe Rubens to be unsurpassed in the whole of the painting canon. Many people can't see beyond the voluptuous fat thighs of Ruben's women but when I think back to most moving of my gallery moments it often involved a work by Rubens. (eg his drawings of his children in Vienna)
Over the years I have done two Rubens copies and I thought I would post them here. They were not done in European galleries as I would have liked but just from books and post cards.
This is my copy of Rubens "Abduction of the daughters of Leucippus" 150 x150cm done about 8 years ago.
This is my copy of Rubens "Mary with Jesus, St John and St Elizabeth" which I painted for my son from a postcard about 7 years ago.  (The figures are about life size.)
The glowing quality which he manages to achieve in his flesh tones is the result of oil glazes, a traditional technique he perfected in the cheeks of his children and which some modern artists are now returning to. The curve of a lower lip in a profile view of a child by Rubens can move me to tears....or certainly goosepimples.
But to get back to Delacroix. I have discovered a painting of his which I didn't know.
These flowers by Delacroix interest me firstly because I am painting flowers myself and secondly because of the range of tone that he manages to get in his background, from very dark to very light. They are just flowers but they are dramatic flowers.
The play of light and shadow is quite dynamic and boldly done. It suggests to me that I could be a bit bolder with my own new pieces. They don't call Delacroix the leader of the "Romantics" for nothing. But it is Romantic in the true sense of drama, adventure, bravura, not the way the word is used nowadays.


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