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Surprising Delacroix

In 1852, when Claude Monet was only 12 years old, Eugène Delacroix painted "The sea, seen from the heights of Dieppe", a painting of astonishing modernity. A true masterpiece in its mastery of light and color, the work prefigures in a dazzling way the impressionist touch which will reveal itself in its fullness nearly 30 years later.

Camille Pissarro Bazincourt, effet de neige. Coucher du soleil, 1892, Huile sur toile, 32 x 41 cm, Hasso Platner Collection / Sammlung Hasso Plattner
Eugène Delacroix. La Mer vue des hauteurs de Dieppe. 1852. Musée du Louvre RMN Grand Palais @2015 Philippe Fuzeau

At sunset, small sailboats gather by a calm sea in a gradation of blue, ocher and golden tones. There was no intention for Delacroix to reproduce each element of the landscape with exactness. The boats are only suggested, the ripples are commas resting on the waves like a group of fishes, heavy clouds are torn apart, revealing the sky. It is impossible not to compare this painting to that which Claude Monet would paint in Étretat, thirty-three years later.

Georgette Agutte. Bord de Seine à l'Automne. Vers 1890. Musée de Grenoble.
Claude Monet. La plage à Étretat. 1885. Musée des Beaux Arts Pouchkine

In the Courrier de Paris of April 1, 1859, Edmond Duranty wrote: "Monsieur Delacroix obviously did not have the premeditation of the landscape painter who perpetrates a canvas with the concentrated desire to meticulously capture a color...but he felt the mean to open a broad aspect... and his brush passed over the canvas... under a full light spread everywhere.

Vincent Van Gogh. Bateaux de pêche aux Saintes Maries. 1888
Vincent Van Gogh. Bateaux de pêche aux Saintes Maries. 1888

Vincent Van Gogh himself wrote from Arles to his brother: "I would be little surprised if, soon, the Impressionists found fault with my way of doing things, which was more fertilized by the ideas of Delacroix than by theirs.

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...

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