Eugène Delacroix, “Christ on the Mount of Olives” (1824)

Delacroix, “Christ on the Mount of Olives” (a much better image can be found at the article below, or just through google. I used Zoom In like 20 times.)

Géricault’s aesthetic heir, Delacroix, is arguably the star of the show. Whatever his medium, the confines of the rectangle seem barely able to contain his energetic marks and strokes. Delacroix’s admiration for the freedom and intensity of Rembrandt’s drawings is palpable, equally visible in a highly developed study of Christ on the Mount of Olives, in calligraphic sketches, or in a drawing from life, of an Arab, made during a formative early trip to North Africa….

In his journals, Delacroix agonized over why he preferred his sketches to his finished paintings, concluding that sketches allowed the viewer to complete the work imaginatively.

– Karen Wilkin, “Drawn to Revolution” in the WSJ

The ground beneath and “supporting” Christ is so turbulent I feel He is about to be thrown out of the painting at us. That ground and the rock curve like waves attacking a shore; above and beside Christ’s figure motion roughly follows the circle of His halo, His light. Is it more peaceful? We are at least presented a narrative. Shapes like sleeping apostles on the left, very thick patches of dark green, a not-quite-distinct mob gathering on the right looking like they are burning, like they are a tongue of fire. Christ Himself is very much awake. Shouldn’t Providence – His knowledge – be experienced more positively?

The painting uses a very earthy palette. Christ’s light is radiant, but may not be the key color. One of the indistinct human shapes at the left wears blue. The upper right has a patch of blue. We can’t really recognize anyone as human in the painting save Christ. Perhaps Providence is not for God, but us. The godly thought may be that some have the freedom to choose better, even as earthly and cosmic events conspire to swallow us whole.

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