On this day in 1797, the great French painter Paul Delaroche was born. He is known as a “historical” painter, because he painted scenes from history. As a result, there are some complaints that sometimes his history wasn’t quite right. Or maybe it is more likely that some pedantic graduate student had his way with Delaroche’s Wikipedia page. It is said he cared more about creating dramatic paintings than in portraying history accurately. And I say, “Thank God for that!”
He was an amazing talent. Just check out this painting Napoleon Abdiquant a Fontainebleau (Napoleon Abdicating in Fontainebleau). Was that the way it was? I don’t know. I don’t care. It is the way it ought to have been!
One painting the Wikipedia page has special criticism for is, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey. It says, “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey is represented as taking place in a dungeon, which is badly inaccurate.” Oh my God! It turns out she was actually executed in the open air. We should just burn the painting! After all, look at how poorly it is rendered:
Delaroche is best know for painting the Hemicycle, which is an almost 90 foot long mural at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. It was supposed to be in the style of Raphael, and it is; and as a result, I think it is some of his weakest work. It is still, however, insanely great. This is the middle of three sections with Phidias, Ictinus, and Apelles sitting up there like the kings of architecture, sculpture, and painting:
It is also said that he was so in love with his wife that he never got over her death, and confined himself to religious painting after that. I think that is largely true. Regardless, we shouldn’t remember Delaroche as he was but as he ought to have been. That’s how he would have wanted it.
Happy birthday Paul Delaroche!