Benjamin West painting now hangs in the Louvre

Benjamin West (1738-1820)
Phaeton Asking Apollo to Drive the Sun Chariot, 1804
Oil on canvas - 142 x 213 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : D. Rykner

22/10/08 — Hang — Paris, Musee du Louvre — Last year we had pointed out the acquisition of a Benjamin West painting by the Louvre (see news item of 29/7/07). The canvas needed to be restored and we had only seen the work in photographs.

The painting has just been hung in the Salle des Sept Cheminees (Seven Fireplaces) and is a veritable masterpiece revealing all of Benjamin West’s most enthralling characteristics. With the yellowish varnish gone, the work has recovered its infinitely subtle colouring (ill. 1). We had written that it was “fully Neoclassical”, a description which should be qualified as the influence of Girodet’s Ossianism, which we had mentioned already, is very striking. This is a long ways from the Classicism of Poussinesque influence found in David. This painting, like the two Dubufe works presented in the preceding news item, show how the traditional labels of “Neoclassical” and “Romantic” fail to express for the most part the complexity of European painting in the first half of the 19th century. Both of these styles appear simultaneously in a great many works.

2. Salle des Sept Cheminées, west wall (20/10/08)
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : D. Rykner

The Salle des Sept Cheminees which now houses temporarily a sharply reduced portion of the English collection [1], offers a whole wall of British Romantic works (ill. 2) some of which were acquired over the last few decades : from left to right, and from top to bottom, there are Benjamin West, Henry Singleton’s Haunted Forest (purchased in 1984), Richard Dadd’s Titiana Sleeping (1997), Lady Macbeth Sleepwalking by Henry Fuseli (1970), Bacchante with Tamborine by William Etty (bequeathed in 1970), The Cross in Solitude by Thomas Cole [2] (1975) and Pandemonium by John Martin (2006).

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 22 octobre 2008


[1] The opening of the new rooms has been pushed back to 2015, perhaps even 2018 (see news item of 17/2/08) ! It is really a shame that the public cannot enjoy the great English landscapists (Constable, Turner, Bonington,…). Why not add a wall or two in the middle of the room, as has been done elsewhere in order to display them (on the English hang, see also the news item of 8/7/07) ?

[2] 2. Thomas Cole was American. Benjamin West, born in the United States, is often considered a member of the British school.

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