Thursday, May 28, 2009


Self Portrait
Charcoal on paper, 1838
Private collection

Hippolyte Delaroche, commonly known as Paul Delaroche (17 July 1797 – 4 November 1856) was a French painter born in Paris. Delaroche was born into a wealthy family and was trained by Antoine-Jean, Baron Gros, who then painted life-size histories and had many students.
The first Delaroche picture exhibited was the large Josabeth saving Joas (1822). This exhibition led to his acquaintance with Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix, with whom he became friends. The three of them formed the core of a large group of Parisian historical painters.He visited Italy in 1838 and 1843, when his father-in-law, Horace Vernet, was director of the French Academy in Rome.
Delaroche's studio in Paris was in the Rue Mazarine. His subjects were painted with a firm, solid, smooth surface, which gave an appearance of the highest finish. This texture was the manner of the day and was also found in the works of Vernet, Ary Scheffer, Louis-Leopold Robert and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
Delaroche's paintings, with their straightforward technique and dramatic compositions, became very popular. He applied essentially the same treatment to the characters of distant historical times and the real people of his own day, such as "Napoleon at Fontainebleau," "Napoleon at St Helena," or "Marie Antoinette leaving the Convention after her sentence."
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Napoleon Crossing the Alps
Oil on canvas, 1850
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Delaroche's work was sometimes ahistorical. Cromwell lifting the Coffin-lid and looking at the Body of Charles is based on an urban legend, and The Execution of Lady Jane Grey is represented as taking place in a dungeon, which is badly inaccurate. He tended to care more about dramatic effect than historical truth. Other important Delaroche works include The Princes in the Tower.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Napoleonic subjects were proscribed for artists after 1815. But as Napoleon's reputation was gradually revived, particularly after 1830, it became possible to once again make pictures of the Emperor. There were many Bonapartists in France and the return of Napoleon's remains from St Helena to Paris in 1840 was an extremely popular event.
State commissions for art celebrating French military achievement and glory generally could now accommodate Napoleon's victories as well as, say, those of Louis XIIII. Perhaps surprisingly, there were many admirers of Napoleon in Britain, associating his memory either with enlightened progress in opposition to reactionary monarchy or alternatively with military genius. His brutal suppression of nations, huge military losses and genocidal colonial policy were somehow glossed over.
This painting was commissioned by Arthur George, 3rd Earl of Onslow, who was a passionate collector of Napoleonic material. Queen Victoria also owned one of the several versions of this picture .The story of the picture's genesis is curious. The Earl of Onslow was walking with Delaroche in the Louvre one day in 1848. Standing in front of David's famous painting of Napoleon Crossing the Alps he commented on how implausibly theatrical it was and requested Delaroche to do the same subject in a more accurate way.
Delaroche studied the accounts of Napoleon's crossing of the St Bernard Pass and possibly visited the site to get first hand knowledge of the landscape. The mountain guide who had accompanied Napoleon was dead by 1848 but his account of what was probably the most important event in his life was well known as was Napoleon's own account in his memoirs and the account by the historian Adolphe Thiers.
The Emperor had crossed the St. Bernard, not on a magnificent white stallion as shown by David, but on a sure-footed mule and with someone familiar with the terrain. It is this unheroic episode that Delaroche depicts and with the viewpoint of one who might have actually been there standing next to Napoleon turning around to cast a glance at him.
Rather than Napoleon making an expansive gesture pointing onward and upward as he does in David's picture he is instead shown thoughtful, even apprehensive, about the forthcoming battles ahead. By 1848 Delaroche had already made two major paintings of Napoleon, both suggesting his reflective introspective solitude as he contemplates the tasks of genius. This third is treated similarly.
In 1850 the completed picture arrived in England and was reviewed by the critic of The Atheneum. The mundane realism of the treatment apparently did not please:
‘An Officer in a French costume, mounted on a mule, is conducted by a rough peasant through a dangerous pass, whose traces are scarcely discernible through the deep-lying snow; and his aide-de-camp is just visible in a ravine of the towering Alps. These facts are rendered with a fidelity that has not omitted the plait of a drapery, the shaggy texture of the four-footed animal, nor a detail of the harness on his back. The drifting of the imbedded snow, the pendent icicle which a solitary sun-ray in a transient moment has made-all are given with a truth which will be dear to those who exalt the Dutch School for like qualities into the foremost rank of excellence. But the lofty and daring genius that led the humble Lieutenant of Ajaccio to be ruler and arbiter of the destinies of the larger part of Europe will be sought in vain by M. Delaroche.’
Delaroche's reputation declined after about 1870, particularly as avant-garde tastes developed for various forms of more direct realism. His pictures however remained popular and the postcard of the National Gallery's 'The Execution of Lady Jane Grey' is one of their best sellers.
The Walker's picture was bought from Lord Onslow's sale in 1893 and presented to the Gallery in the same year by Henry Yates Thompson.
(Articles from © 2003 National Museums Liverpool)

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey
Oil on canvas, 1834
National Gallery, London
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Delaroche settled on a final composition in 1832 for The Execution of Lady Jane Grey in a watercolor found today at the University of Manchester (Whitworth Art Gallery). The Louvre drawing, a study of three figures from the tragic scene, was thus created at the same period. The figure of the executioner, although he appears younger and less intimidating than in the painting: he seems moved and touched by the fragility of his victim. The two women are Jane Grey's attendants. The position of the woman on the left would eventually be altered, but she already displays the despair present in the final version. The postures of the figures are calculated to intensify the tragic nature of the theme, while the faces express deep feelings discreetly suppressed. Through profound and concentrated observation, Delaroche depicts the overwhelmed witnesses, making a sensitive analysis of each with a careful aestheticism free from violence. This drawing perfectly illustrates the method employed by Delaroche in the preparation of his compositions. Once its respective placement was decided, each figure was then carefully studied in separate drawings. The drawing is clear, the line precise, with scrupulous attention devoted to the smallest detail. The clothing is faithful to 16-century documents, revealing a taste for research and accuracy in the service of historic credibility. The placing of the executioner on a grid indicates that the figure appears here in his definitive form, ready to be transposed by a process of enlargement onto the canvas, respecting the proportions that have been fixed in the drawing. (Articles From LOUVRE)

The children of King Edward imprisoned in the Tower
Oil on canvas, 1830
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

The two princes, imprisoned in the Tower of London, were smothered on the orders of Richard III, their uncle and usurper of their rights. Following the success of The Death of Elizabeth I (Salon Denon), Delaroche purified his style, forsaking extravagant picturesqueness for more accurate historic detail, and theatrical hyberbole for a novel sense of dramatic suspense.
Two pale-faced children cling to each other on a four-poster bed in a dark room. Edward V and his nine year-old brother Richard, children of the deceased king of England, Edward IV, have heard a noise and stopped reading. The king gazes melancholically at us, his younger brother looks anxiously towards the door; their dog watches the shadow of a foot in the light under the door. The painter is suggesting the children's imminent murder. Edward's children were smothered to death in 1483, on the orders of their uncle, who then took the throne under the name of Richard III. This tragic episode in English history had been popularized by Shakespeare's play, Richard III.
The painter Paul Delaroche chose this subject for a painting he wanted to present at the 1831 Salon, where the canvas was a huge popular success. The picture was immediately purchased by the administrators of the Royal museums. Such was the painting's fame that it inspired Casimir Delavigne to write a play, The Children of Edward (1833). Paul Delaroche made a specialty of subjects drawn from English history (The Death of Elizabeth I, 1633, Musée du Louvre) and the woes of famous victims. He had his first success at the 1824 Salon with Joan of Arc (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen). His works were widely disseminated, as they were perfectly adapted for reproduction as engravings or photographs.
Delaroche was labeled a romantic during his lifetime because of his penchant for modern history and drama and also his realism. As The Children of Edward shows, he was intent on surprising and moving the viewer, but also concerned with the historical accuracy of the setting and costumes. Delaroche introduced into large format historical subjects the realistic detail that is typical of genre paintings: this picture was therefore classified as a historical genre painting, midway between the two. Many aspects of his style are not romantic, however. As in classical art, priority is given to precise drawing and highly-finished treatment. Delaroche has also forsaken the warm colors he used in previous works, like Joan of Arc, for instance.
The picture creates a sensation of heightened reality that is perfectly suited the true vocation of this type of work.
(Articles From LOUVRE)

Hemicycle of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts
Oil on canvas, 1814
Duomo, Siena
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

In 1837 Delaroche received the commission for the great picture, 27 metres (88.5 ft) long, in the hemicycle of the award theatre of the École des Beaux Arts. The commission came from the Ecole's architect, Felix Duban. The painting represents seventy-five great artists of all ages, in conversation, assembled in groups on either hand of a central elevation of white marble steps, on the topmost of which are three thrones filled by the creators of the Parthenon: architect Phidias, sculptor Ictinus, and painter Apelles, symbolizing the unity of these arts.
To supply the female element in this vast composition he introduced the genii or muses, who symbolize or reign over the arts, leaning against the balustrade of the steps, depicted as idealized female figures. The painting is done directly on the wall, in oil paints. Delaroche finished the work in 1841, but it was considerably damaged by a fire in 1855. He immediately set about trying to re-paint and restore the work, but died on 4 November 1856, before he had accomplished much of this. The restoration was finished by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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