Eugène Delacroix
(Charenton-Saint-Maurice, 1798-1863, Paris)
Christ on the Sea of Galilee, 1853
Oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm
Signed & dated lower right: Eug. Delacroix 1853
Johnson 455
The Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix is well represented in the Bührle Collection. He was a leading figure in French painting during the first half of the nineteenth century. He was admired by young artists in particular, who felt increasingly estranged from the ideals held up by academic art. The painting that you see here, Christ on the Sea of Galilee, shows how freely Delacroix treated traditional artistic subjects. The driving element of the composition is not the handful of fearful disciples, who have finally resorted to waking Jesus, asleep in the bow of the storm-tossed boat. The artist concentrates rather on conveying the force of the waves, which are contrasted to great effect with the mountain ranges in the background. The sail flapping in the grip of the wind injects energy into painting, drawing the eye up into equally turbulent clouds. This dynamic use of the brush was something that Impressionist painting had in common with Delacroix's work; and paintings by the Impressionists hung side by side with those by the older artist in several important Paris collections. The fact that Emil Bührle gave Delacroix such a prominent place in his collection reveals how strongly he considered the history of art to be mainly a history of its development. By collecting an important forerunner in this sense, in the person of Delacroix, he anchored his own French Impressionists firmly in the art history of the nineteenth century.