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Description de l’éditeur

To-day, as one examines the ten masterpieces by Delacroix in the Salle des États at the Louvre—ten pictures which may without fear of contradiction be asserted to form an epitome of the art of the man who is now generally acknowledged to be the fountain-head of all modern art—one can only with difficulty understand the bitter hostility, the fierce passion, aroused by these works when Delacroix's name was the battle-cry of the moderns, when Delacroix was the leader of the numerically small faction which waged heroic war against the inexorable tyrannic rule of academic art. What was once considered extreme and revolutionary, has become what might almost be described as a classic basis of a revaluation of æsthetic values. Even Manet's "Olympia," the starting-point of a more recent artistic upheaval, a picture which on its first appearance at the Paris Salon of 1865 was received with wild howls of execration, now falls into line at the Louvre with the other great masterpieces of painting. It marks a bold step in the evolution of modern art, but it is no longer disconcerting to our eyes. And Delacroix can no longer be denied classic rank. To understand the significance of Delacroix in the art of his country, and the hostility shown to him by officialdom and by the unthinking public almost during the whole course of his life, one has to trace back the art of painting in France to its very birth. It will then be found that the history of this art, from the moment when French painting emerges from the obscurity of the Middle Ages until well into the second half of the nineteenth century, is a history of an almost uninterrupted struggle between North and South.

All the efforts of chauvinistic French critics have failed to establish the existence of an early indigenous school. Nearly all the early painters who are mentioned in contemporary documents were Flemings who had settled in France. Their art is so closely allied to that of the Northern Schools, that it is sometimes impossible to establish the origin of pictures that are traditionally ascribed to French painters. But at the same time, perhaps in the train of the Popes who had transferred their Court to Avignon, Italian art began to invade France from the South. Simone Martini's frescoes in the Papal Palace at Avignon certainly left their mark upon the School that arose in the Provençal city; and gradually traces of Italian influence made themselves felt in an art that remained Northern in its essential features. There is at the National Gallery an early French panel, a "Scene from the Legend of St. Giles" (No. 1419), which clearly shows the harmonious blending of the two currents.

Arts et spectacles
17 mars
Library of Alexandria

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