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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Michel Delacroix

Le Moulin Rouge, Michel Delacroix
When you hear the name, Pissarro, you naturally think of the French Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro, right? When you hear the name Picasso, you think of Pablo. When you talk about Michelangelo, you think of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. And when you mention Delacroix you think of the French Romantic artist, Eugene Delacroix. One of the pitfalls of simply thinking about artists is that, in every one of those cases, other less well-known, but highly accomplished artists also bear the same name. With Pissarro, for instance there's a whole family tree full of Impressionist painters to climb. With Picasso, there's his daughter, fashion designer, Paloma Picasso. With Michelangelo, there's one named Buonarroti and another named Caravaggio. And with Delacroix, there's Eugene and Michel.
Le Canal St. Martin En Autonne, 1990, Michel Delacroix
The two Michelangelos, of course, are not related (except perhaps in disposition). And more surprisingly, despite their last names, neither are Eugene and Michel Delacroix (insofar as I've been able to determine, at least). The Picasso artists, and the prodigious progeny of Pissarro, are not only related by blood, but also as to their painting styles. Conversely, in the case of the two Delacroix artist, they are neither blood relatives nor related stylistically. Most of us recognize Eugene Delacroix's Romanticism immediately. Michel Delacroix, however paints in a style the French call "Naif." Likewise their content is as different as noon and midnight. Michel paints only French (usually Paris) street scenes.
A painter since his teen years, the artist paints the Paris he recalls from "then" not what he sees "now."
If you're at all familiar with French, you'll recognize that "Naif" is related to our English word, "Naïve." They're not only related, they both mean exactly the same--inexperienced or perhaps innocent. Of course, Michel Delacroix is neither. Born in 1933 and still alive and well and living in Paris at the age of eighty-four, Naif applies only to his style, not the man. If you were to further describe Michel Delacroix's work you might term it French urban folk art. Yet Delacroix is not untrained, and only paints in a "primitive" mode because he wants to. Actually, as a young man, he studied at the Lycee Louis-le-Grand (the high school of Louis the Great), a Paris educational institution dating back to 1563.

The Roofs of Paris under Show, 1991, Michel Delacroix
The Paris Delacroix paints is not the urban metropolis of the present. The viewer is not going to see modern day Paris. Instead, Michel Delacroix paints a dream-like place the city became in the 1940's, during the Occupation, when, as he puts it, "We suddenly jumped fifty years into the past--no more cars on the streets, very few lights. Paris suddenly became very quiet, very dark, and, though people were afraid, there was a brotherhood and spirit that was very delightful." Delacroix, was only a child of seven. Thus he spared by his age any understanding of the cruelties and absurdities of war. For the young boy, it was the one of the great adventure of ;his life.

In that he most often paints from memory, Delacroix is also free to paint from virtually every point of view, from street level to almost map-like depictions.
In years past, Michel Delacroix has been able to get out of the city to paint some of the great landmarks his country counts in the thousands. Michel is not unaware of the works making up the rich, cultural history of his country, nor that of the more illustrious "other" Delacroix. During his early years as an artist he experimented with virtually all the styles of the past including the Impressionism of Monet and the Post-impressionism of Seurat, Gauguin, van Gogh, and others. Fabienne Delacroix's Bateau-au-mouillage (boat--the anchor), below, would seem to be a homage to Monet, Seurat, and several others of the period by his daughter, Fabienne, who is also a working artist.

Bateau au Mouillage (boat--the anchor), Fabienne Delacroix

Mt. Vernon, Michel Delacroix. No, you can't
see Washington's home from Paris. Delacroix's
son, Bertrand, owned an art gallery in New
York which sold his father's work in the U.S. for
some fifty years.


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