Baudelaire's Response To Delacroix: The Old Woman

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By “memories structure,” Fried means the centuries-old recourse made by artist to Classical, Renaissance, and Post-Renaissance traditions as constantly mined sources of reusable expressions, poses, and compositions. Although, Field’s analysis of Baudelaire’s response to Delacroix is not the main point of his essay, the “Salon 1846” provided Fried with his leading example of the operation of the “memory structure”: Baudelaire had taken elaborate pains, both justificatory and convoluted, to assure himself that his favorite artist’s achievement was reinforced from afar and mercifully precedent free – exactly because Delacroix’s multi-figure paintings were riddled with poses, expressions, and anatomical templates taken from the old masters. In…show more content…
(His later career has been re-examined by Marc Gotlieb.) Although he concentrated on the exact same figure later isolated by Baudelaire, Cogniet waxed enthusiastic about the obvious way in which the “old woman” improved on the art of the past. Cogniet’s remarks (made during a visit to Delacroix’s studio to see the Chios) were recorded by Delacroix in the Journal. Cogniet said that he “felt as though he were seeing the beginning of the picture [i.e., the Chios] of the great period. And then he said how much Gericault would have liked it! The old woman without a gaping mouth, whose eyes aren’t exaggerated.” By excerpting not a focal figure but one depicted just off-center, Cogniet included himself in the tradition of appreciative viewer lighting upon secondary parts of Delacroix’s paintings. His general invocation of the recently deceased Gericault, in whose shadow Cogniet also emerged as a painter, is unsurprising as well. A look at the middle ground of Gericault’s Raft reveals faces tilted in ways also seen in the figure of the old woman Delacroix had painted in the Chios. Here, Delacroix’s recourse to Gericault’s composition seems to accrue further, localized debts. In addition, a number of otherwise diverse canvases from the years 1820 to 1824 show Delacroix’s fascination with the potential of this very pose, with a series of faces…show more content…
But it is vital to note how Cogniet glimpsed a longer lineage in the Chios’s old woman: one that included the seventeenth-century artists Guido Reni and Nicolas Poussin. Foster’s “memory structure” thus departs somewhat from Fried’s analysis of the “Salon of 1846.” Baudelaire rested secure in Delacroix’s invocations of the art of the past, because he believed it to be heedless: the force of the involuntary allowed Delacroix his access to tradition – and Gericault was only a recent representative of many traditions. To be sure, the Raft might offer itself as an initial “afterimage” in the major paintings of Delacroix’s early career, but it has plenty of company. Distraught mothers in full cry are depicted in the famous versions of the Massacre of the Inoccents by Guido Reni and Poussin (Poussin’s canvas was painted 15 or 16 years after Reni’s). Delacroix withheld the motif of “O” – shaped lips parted in the evocation of sound. And here we find the reason for Cogniet’s delighted relief: Delacroix had spared him a frozen moment of endless

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