Delacroix
Delacroix

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Delacroix

Glossary

Classical style:
derived from antique art, architecture and statuary, the classical style conveyed to the eighteenth century via the Renaissance was characterised by rationalism and idealism. It was infused by a sense of legible structure, order and harmony. In painting, this meant the use of a clearly legible picture space, arranged hierarchically around the central figure or motif (in history painting, a ‘hero’ perhaps; in landscape a prominent motif in the middle distance). Figure groupings were organised into stable (for example, pyramidal) geometric formations and were balanced across the canvas. Light and shade were used to highlight or unify pictorial elements rather than to dazzle, dapple or call attention to themselves. There were different modes of the classical style, principally the Baroque and the neoclassical.
Distemper:
a water-based paint mixed with glue (to make it adhere to the canvas) and with chalk (to make it fill in the pores of the ground or canvas to which it is to be applied).
Gothic novel:
a particularly sensational variant of romance literature, popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, that focused on horror and irrational passion. Delacroix had read works by such accomplished writers in the genre as Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823) and Mathew Lewis (1775–1818). His own early Gothic writings included Alfred and The Dangers of Court. Usually inspired by the darkness of Gothic or medieval architecture and social practices, this type of writing often focused on priests or nobles who abused the young and innocent and used castles and monasteries as settings.
Lay-in:
the application of a layer of neutral colour (such as distemper) to serve as underpainting. It could be lightened or darkened in order to set the tonal pattern of the painting.
Neoclassical style:
a style of painting made famous by Jacques-Louis David and his followers. It was characterised by a stark linearity, austere settings, geometrically planned compositions that often made use of horizontal, frieze-like arrangements of figures, and legible use of picture space. (The term ‘Neoclassicism’ is also sometimes more loosely used to denote the much broader phenomenon of the revival of interest in antiquity evident in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century art and architecture.)
Planimetric composition:
a type of pictorial composition, typical of neoclassical style, that is structured around an implied grid of horizontal and vertical planes or layers. If we imagine the illusory space of a painting as a cube, then that cube can be divided into horizontal and vertical planes or ‘slices’ along sets of parallel lines. (The vertical planes might be compared to a series of theatre backdrops running in parallel into the depth of the stage space.) Objects and figures are arranged along these lines so that the total effect is one of balance and stability. Horizontal arrangements of figures along a specific vertical plane were particularly characteristic of the neoclassical.
Turquerie:
the use of ‘Turkish’ motifs and sources of inspiration for interior decor and ornamentation, which was popular in the early nineteenth century.
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