Eugene Delacroix was a French, Romantic painter and colourist working in the 1800s whose use of colour went onto be a huge influence on the art world. The exhibition, held at the National Gallery, represented a collection of artists whose work and styles are the result of Delacroix’s legacy.
Delacroix exploited the illusion of simultaneous contrast where the perception of a colour is influenced by the close proximity of another colour. This is particularly apparent with complementary colours: red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple. In many of Delacroix paintings he uses clothing to highlight composition, a woman wearing a red dress is positioned near a man wearing a green coat, yellow silk scarves are draped round the necks of women wearing long purple gowns. In his paintings of North Africa, bright blue skies sit above terracotta clad figures in the foreground.
This technique is one you can see echoed in so many paintings since, culminating in pieces that are almost consumed with a love for exploring, and interpreting colour perceptions seen in the work of the colour field, abstract expressionists, op art and pop art movements.
This exhibition picked out some beautiful and subtle examples which were truly pleasurable to see placed together as you moved along the rooms, observing primarily the colour use, and then the content and composition of the work. The pieces that stood out for me were Cezanne’s Standing Nude whose peach flesh shadows were icy blue, Gustave Moreau’s Saint George and the Dragon, where George is clad in a flowing red cape over his dark green body and head gear, Gaugin’s vase of blue and orange flowers and Paul Signac’s Snow on Boulevard Clichy, Paris. Georges Seurat wrote passionately about Delacroix and cited his colour work as being inspirational to Seurat’s pointilist technique, but here Signac’s work is selected and the grey colour palette with deep blue figures and flashes of orange brick work was very subtle and beautiful.