London’s art museums, with their rich treasure troves of paintings, are perfectly placed to instruct as well as entertain their audiences. The National Gallery has long proved adept at using what they own to educate the public in a superbly engaging manner. In Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art (until 22 May), the mastery of French artist Eugene Delacroix and his lasting impact on a host of modern artists such as Van Gogh, Monet and Cézanne makes an enlightening display.
While Delacroix may not initially seem synonymous with modern art, this show places his work side by side with those who revered him, and suddenly the emotional intensity of his painting and his ability to suggest light and movement through colour make him a natural forefather of the Impressionists. Renoir’s homage to Delacroix’s scenes of North African cities, Van Gogh’s yellow and cobalt Pieta, copied from a monochrome print of Delacroix’s original, or Cézanne’s treatment of green foliage against those of the older artist open one’s eyes afresh to the energy of Delacroix’s lion hunt, his wild storm on a biblical sea or duelling warriors.