While historians and scholars alike maintain that modernism began in France in 1863, a current exhibition in Minneapolis seeks to highlight the movement’s roots within French Romanticism, specifically the works and career of Eugéne Delacroix.
“The principal characteristics invariably associated with Modernism — the artist’s self-conscious rejection of conventional or academic methods of representation in search of more vital forms of personal expression, and the exploration of the aesthetic autonomy of the means of representation, regardless of the subject represented — were in evidence long before the Salon des Refusés in 1863,” writes the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which opened an exhibition on October 18.

Edouard Manet, “Music in the Tuileries Gardens,” 1862, oil on canvas, 30 x 47 in. (c) National Gallery, London 2015

“Delacroix’s Influence: The Rise of Modern Art from Cézanne to van Gogh” seeks to call attention to Modernism’s roots in French Romanticism, suggesting that artists at the turn of the 19th century were just as concerned with representing — and responding to — ever-changing social, economic, and cultural conventions as the Expressionists and Impressionists were.

Eugene Delacroix, “Bride of Abydos,” 1857, oil on canvas, 19 x 15 in. (c) Kimbell Art Museum 2015

Continuing, the museum writes, “Without attaching the tag of ‘first modern’ to any particular artist’s or school’s legacy, this exhibition examines the radical role as mentor and archetype that Eugéne Delacroix and his art played during his lifetime and subsequent decades. As the bridge between Anglo-French Romanticism of the 1820s and the ‘New Painting’ that came to be called Impressionism in 1874, Delacroix’s influence reveals a progression by which, one after another, succeeding generations of avant-garde artists, however divergent their own artistic programs, engaged anew every aspect of his protean achievement.”

Henri Fantin Latour, “Immortality,” 1889, oil on canvas, 46 x 35 in. (c) National Museum Wales 2015

“Delacroix’s Influence: The Rise of Modern Art from Cézanne to van Gogh” opened on October 18 and will be on view through January 10.
To learn more, visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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