Skip to main content

Delaroche


Central portion of "L'Hémicycle des Beaux-arts", 1841-42

Hippolyte Delaroche, aka Paul Delaroche, was a French painter born on July 17, 1797. A true Classical painter to the end, Delaroche breathes life into whatever subject matter he paints with a unique realism, whether portraiture, mythological or historical. Delaroche is the one you have to see in person in a museum to fully appreciate.

The above painting is actually a section of a massive curved mural (over 27' long) at the École des Beaux Arts, hence the name Hémicycle. Taking over three and a half years to complete, seventy-five artists from the past to Delaroche's era are represented here in life-size scale, and some are easily spotted such as Rubens, Raphael, Michelangelo, Velazquez, and Van Dyck. This painting was done apparently in both oil and encaustic, which shows the incredibly vivid colors quite well. Why this theme of honoring the great artists of the past was not continued is quite sad, actually, and speaks volumes about our current narcissistic and myopic society.




DelarocheQueenElizabeth
The Death of Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 1828

An interesting historical figure, Queen Elizabeth reigned in the era that became known as the Elizabethan era where literature, theatre and music flourished, and poets like Shakespeare. Although she was not a patron of the arts like other aristrocracy in Europe she was a shrewd leader and in her later years she aged quickly, as is depicted here by Delaroche. He bathes the scene in a golden light, with figures surrounding her Highness in horror as she approaches her final moments. In the background three knights engulfed in shadow look upon her. She lived in an age of intrigue and plots to kill her, and the mood of this painting definitely draws upon these themes. Delaroche creates a very sombre scene that is palpable and unnerving in that death touches everyone, including royalty.





Napoléon Bonaparte abdicated in Fontainebleau, 1845

This historical figure needs no introduction at all, and here Delaroche captures a tireless mind lost in his own anxiety. Note the details of his boots. Delaroche creates subtle browns and greys on his jacket to give the impression of being well worn, yet the bright red background serves to illustrate his importance as one of the greatest generals of all time.





The execution of Lady Jane Grey in the Tower of London in the year 1554, 1833
click here for zoomable version

A stunning work, this depicts the execution of Lady Jane who was Queen of England for only 9 days before being executed here of high treason for not having a valid claim to the throne and being Protestant, without any trial. She was only sixteen years old. Delaroche captures her innocence perfectly here, dressed in white and blindfolded as she is led to the cutting block. Even the executioner appears reluctant. The scene plays out with breathtaking silence and Delaroche doesn't miss any details, stressing the importance of this horrible act.





Charles I Insulted by Cromwell's Soldiers, 1836

Here Delaroche depicts Charles I of England being bothered by the soldiers of Oliver Cromwell before his own execution as being a King who abused his power and caused the death of thousands of his own soldiers for his own pursuit of power instead of the good of his country. The subtle chiaroscuro here is breathtaking, and the facial expression of Charles is so real it seems hard to believe it is a painting we are looking at. Delaroche had an amazing ability to interpret historical events and breathe life into them like few painters before or after him. Again, he is underrated in today's art world, but his achievements deserve special merit for anyone studying painting.

Popular posts from this blog

More Old Master Drawings

There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body.
Robert Henri








Charles Louis Müller, A Standing Female Nude Leaning Against an Arch, ca.1864

Once again I decided to talk about some Old Master drawings and delve into the thinking behind how these drawings may have been created and the knowledge of the artist. In the above drawing by Müller, done in sanguine with white chalk highlights, the figure is drawn from a low view-point, with her body twisting toward her left side while resting on one knee. Note how Müller alternates the bent right leg with the bent left arm to create dynamic contrast. The right arm is also foreshortened and partially in shadow. Expressing power and femininity, this is a study that is Renaissance in spirit, even Mannerist, revealing the female nude as sculptural yet always graceful.







Anton Raphael Mengs, Seated male nude viewed from the back, 1755

One of several Academic nude studies by Mengs, this …

Guercino il Magnifico

Self-Portrait of the Artist holding a Palette, ca.1635


Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino was born on February 8, 1591 in Cento, a small city near Ferrara. He is one of the great masters of the Italian Baroque and poet of painters. Noted for his speed and efficiency, Guercino also worked in a number of mediums with equal passion whether ink, chalk, charcoal, or oils. His nickname, which means 'little cross-eyes' in Italian, derives in part from an apocryphal childhood accident where he supposedly awoke from a deep sleep as a child from a loud scream that caused his eyes to cross. Another story says something was thrown into his eyes. At any rate, he was self-taught as an artist from as early as nine years old and by his early teens was discovered by the eldest of the Carracci where he would spend some time at the Accademia Degli Incamminati before venturing out on his own. Despite his apparent 'handicap', his vision and talent would make him a giant that few…

Old Master Drawings

Drawing is not the form; it is the way of seeing the form.
Degas



A male nude from behind, c.1630 Gian Lorenzo Bernini

In this blog I talk about painting but the importance of drawing cannot be understated of course, and I believe we can learn just as much from studying their techniques of line and strokes as we can from brushstrokes...more in most cases as the drawing is more expressive and intimate. It reveals the personality and character of the artist.

The above drawing apparently comes from the period of Bernini's teaching at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, one of four from the exact same model. This drawing is fairly big for a study, at 55.6 x 42cm (21 x 16 inches). Consider Michelangelo's study for Libyan Sibyl, is only 28.9 x 21.4 cm (11 3/8 x 8 7/16 inches), a small study for a fresco which would be painted several times larger than life size. I can only guess that Bernini was teaching a big class and that maybe his work was on display for students to study, or it ma…