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4.4 Revealing the inner being – exercise

Exercise 4

Read the following extract (dating from May 1824) from Delacroix’s journal. From 1822, following Rousseau’s tradition of self-confession, Delacroix kept a diary in which he expressed his views on himself and on his art. It was not published until 1893–5. What view does Delacroix express here about revealing one’s inner being in art?

What torments my soul is its loneliness. The more it expands among friends and the daily habits or pleasures, the more, it seems to me, it flees me and retires into its fortress. The poet who lives in solitude, but who produces much, is the one who enjoys those treasures we bear in our bosom, but which forsake us when we give ourselves to others. When one yields oneself completely to one’s soul, it opens itself completely to one, and then it is that the capricious thing allows one of the greatest of good fortunes … that of sympathizing with others, of studying itself, of painting itself constantly in its works, something that Byron and Rousseau have perhaps not noticed. I am not talking about mediocre people: for what is this rage, not only to write, but to be published? Outside of the happiness of being praised, there is that of addressing all souls that can understand yours, and so it comes to pass that all souls meet in your painting.

(Pach, 1938, p.89)


An artist who ‘yields’ to his soul may express it in his art and hence communicate with other ‘souls that can understand yours’. This is, however, best achieved (paradoxically) from a position of solitude. (Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder had a similar insistence on the separation of aesthetic experience from everyday life.) Effective expression of one’s inner being is dependent on the adequate understanding of others.

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