Talk:The Barque of Dante

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The first major painting[edit]

How do you qualify 'major'? Surely it is partial to draw the line between a major and minor work. Do you mean in terms of contemporary popularity or future critical reception? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:57, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

in fact, i believe it was the first Delacroix painting to be shown in public. It is my hope that i will be able to get a decent reference to back this claim within the next 48 hours.
jonathan riley (talk) 09:18, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
ok there you go :-) Dunno if you think it can reasonably be said to constitute his first major work. It was his first painting to be hung in public, made him famous virtually overnight, and was bought by the government to be exhibited in paris' biggest gallery of contemporary art. Fairly big deal really :-O
jonathan riley (talk) 12:08, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

a real daub[edit]

So did he like it, or didn't he? I think this should be clarified for the benefit of those for whom daub is a verb, and Delécluze's judgment incomprehensible. If it's a translation from French, maybe find a more idiomatic word. --Trovatore (talk) 06:08, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

i had a go at fixing it. I hope it's good now :-)
jonathan riley (talk) 09:18, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

This sentence[edit]

This particular speculation could not have taken into account the viewpoint of the Impressionists, who could see only more clearly at close quarters Delacroix’s prophetic use of colour in the famous drops of water on the damned.

  • The whole description of the painting is in a very flamboyant and Romantic style, and is uncited. I suppose the description is entirely your own.
  • The above sentence takes it too far altogether. The reader is asked to speculate about D's speculation. The whole sentence is a sort of Romantic notion in which the reader is asked to imagine the Impressionists looking at the picture.
  • It is quite sufficient to describe how coloufully the droplets are painted and how they prefigured the work of the Impressionists about fifty years later. My comment on this is that while the Impressionists did indeed see the world as a very colourful place, painting tiny colourful drops of water in all their minute detail was not in the least Impresssionistic. It would be good to know what an Impressionist actually commented.
  • Also, the use of the word "famous" is generally frowned on as un-Wiki. This is taken to the ridiculous extent that using "famous" to describe, specifically, the extraordinary fame of Leonardo da Vinci resulted is a discussion that went on for many tiresome days with such comments being made as Yes but, would an illiterate peasant farmer in Central Asia have heard of him?
Therefore applying "famous" to a small detail which I am absolutely sure the majority of people know nothing about is taking it a bit too far. Venus de Milo is famous, beyond doubt. Mona Lisa is famous, beyond doubt. Delacroix's drops of water are not truly famous.

Amandajm (talk) 07:24, 26 January 2009 (UTC)


sorry about the statements of fact that are unsourced. I hope to bring more references to the table within the next 48 hours
jonathan riley (talk) 09:42, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

Those droplets again[edit]

  • Delacroix’s pupil and chief assistant of over a decade rercorded that Delacroix had told him the drops on The Barque of Dante were his point of departure as a colourist.

Has this pupil/assistant of over a decade got a name?

  • The drops of water running down the bodies of the damned are rendered in a method seldom seen in painting up to and including the early nineteenth century. Delacroix’s application of discrete quantities of unmixed pigments to suggest unitary forms (the water drops) anticipated the central principle of the technique of divisionism which was developed systematically by Neo-Impressionists[3] such as Paul Signac.

I think this is nonsense. Despite the comment that I made above about the Impressionists not generally concerning themselves with anything as small as a drop of water, the nature of the observation shown here by Delacroix has far more to do with the Impressionist observation of the real and colourful effects of light than it has to do with Divisionism. In fact, the two are quite opposed.

The so-called Neo-Impressionists (Divissionists) were not so much observers as theorists. The theory was that all colour could be broken up into many colours, so they painted in points or dashes of colour. What the Divisionist did was lay on the canvas, side by side, dots or strokes of pure colour (mostly the basic primaries, bright red, bright yellow and bright blue, with dots of white) with the express intention that your eye should mix them into subtler hues.

This is not what Delacroix has done.

Delacroix has looked into a droplet and attempted to carefully register exactly how the light behaves when refracted and reflected by a droplet. He has carefully observed how the light, the forms and the colour are magnified and intensified by the curved surface annd viscosity of the droplet. He has registered his observations in tiny sections and planes of colour. Each of these areas of colour, although tiny, is defined, and it in turn defines a very specific form within each droplet. In other words, each one of these tiny drops is a minute and carefully observed Still Life.

This is linked directly with the Impressionist vision. However, an Impressionist would not have done it in this way, simply because they would be busy trying to render accurately a much broader effect. A Impressionist painter would be registering the shine and gleam on wet skin. Their concern would be the reflected light over a broader area. Unlike Delacroix, artists like Monet and Manet were concerned with the effect that light had on the retina, and the way that it appeared distorted, blurred and blazing. Like Delacroix, they were registering direct observation, but were doing it from a distance of ten metres away, not with the aid of a magnifying glass.

Also, these "pure" colours that Delacroix used might have come stright from the tube, but they are not the basic primaries. They are Naples Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Paynes Grey, Burnt Sienna and so on. They might be "pure" in terms of being "unmixed", but they are certainly not pure in terms of colour theory. They tend to be tertiary colours, rather than primaries or secondaries. This is a very long way from the theory (and the palette) of painters like Signac.

  • So where does this come from, and where did it go?
  1. If we see the droplets in terms of "observation of reflected light", rather than in terms of "patches of bright colour" it leads us to the Dutch masters, Rembrandt and Vermeer who both excelled at painting reflective surfaces. The chief difference that we have here is that neither specifically painted water droplets.
  2. However, glass goblets full of water were a favourite subject of numerous Dutch still life painters. And the intesity of colour, and the type of division of colour that occurs in Delacroix's droplets occurs over and again in these works, albeit on a larger scale. The same artists concerned themselves with the reflective and refractive nature of grapes, and the effect that light had on the translucent interior of a cut lemon.
  3. The French artist whose observations most closely prefigure Delacroix's study of light in droplets is Chardin who, as well as his charming paintings of ordinary people, did a number of simply arranged and brilliantly observed and executed Still Lifes.
  4. Delacroix's successors are Corot and Courbet.
  5. Delacroix's contemporary Constable was also concerning himself most specifically with the effect of light on drops of water. But as he was applying it to large landscapes, his droplets appear as tiny white dots created by the sun reflecting of the moisture on leaves.

The pictures below are all small and closely focused.

Thanks for not just steaming in and editing great chunks out of the article. I need to do more reading on neo-impressionist theory in the library, but i won't be able to until after the weekend. If you edit the article before then, i will have no problem at all with that. Just thought i'd say so :-)
jonathan riley (talk) 17:09, 30 January 2009 (UTC)
Well, thanks! I haven't done any specific reading on Delacroix. You can use as much of what I wrote above as you like, but the problem is, I don't know whether you can find citations to support it.
The link between these droplets and the Divisionists is really very tenuous. But regardless of that, if someone has created a link in a learned paper, then it is there for you to quote.
Frankly, I think you would be wasting your time reading Neo-Impressionist/Divisionist theory specifically to enlighten this particular article. (That is not to say that they are not worth reading about for their own worth.)
The links between Delacroix's close observation of water droplets, and the Impressionist's observations of sun, mist, rain, snow, light, reflections and shadow on water, shimmering leaves etc etc are much greater.
Divisionist method:
  • If you take a look at the Paintings by Signac that are reproduced on Wki Commons, the method that the Divisionists employed is very obvious. There is a palette of red, French ultramarine, violet, yellow, bright green (rainbow colours) which are then painted on alternately in very regularly sized and shape brushstrokes. The number of brushstrokes of any given colour affects the ultimate result, so if a bluish effect is called for, then there are more blue blobs. When painting sea, there are a greater number of white blobs where shine is wanted.
  • This is not about observation at all. It is about creating an overall "look". The theory is about a million miles removed from an artist who has studiously investigated the real effect of light within a drop of water and attempted to reproduce what he saw exactly. If you look at Delacroix's droplets up close, what you see is a droplet. If you look at a Divisionist painting up close, what you see if a very regular pattern of dots, which is meaningless. On the other hand, if you look at an Impressionist painting up close, you see a great variety of colour and brush technique as the artist tries to capture each surface, texture and atmospheric effect in the best possible way. Divisionists are not interested in depicting the real nature of a surface or texture. Everything is about a specific theory of colour observation, and every picture, and every part of each picture works solely to that end.
  • This is the bit I am arguing with "anticipated the central principle of the technique of divisionism". I would agree that it anticipated Impressionism but I don't believe it has any link with the "central principle of the technique of divisionism", which is a very very different matter. Amandajm (talk) 12:34, 31 January 2009 (UTC)