I think formally it thrust the history of art forward in the two ways we have been talking about: one, by the absolute refusal to impose a hierarchy of meaning on it. That you see meaning all across this very wide canvas. Secondly, in the very definite use of color without modulation, the boldness with which the paint is applied, the almost caricatural way in which he portrays some of the characters. And then finally in its absolute commitment to paint modern life, which had not been as it were an acceptable subject for high art before this time.
There was, I think, right from the late 1850s a sense in the Paris art world that something had to give. That French art was getting rather boring and it needed a kick in the behind. And Manet, even though he certainly did not set out to do that, became the person who administered the kick.
The reason the piece is in the show is that it shows the world of art in Paris at the moment Delacroix dies, I mean this is 1862; Delacroix dies a year later in 1863. And what it’s saying is that in those final years of Delacroix’s life, a new art world was in the process of emerging.
It would change everything, but then as we will see in the whole second half of the exhibition, Delacroix continued to play a big role in that changed world, more than any other artist of the older generations, it was Delacroix to whom all these young art rebels would keep turning back and finding things. It’s the transitional picture, the turning point picture in the whole exhibition.Back to parent stop