Delacroix by Fielding, Fielding by Delacroix

1. Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)
Portrait of Thales Fielding, c. 1825
Oil on canvas - 32.3 x 24.8 cm
Paris, Musée Eugène Delacroix
Photo : Louvre / H. Brejat

14/5/09 – Acquisitions – Paris, Musée Delacroix – The Musée Delacroix, now an annex to the Louvre, has acquired a pair of paintings from the Wildenstein Gallery in New York depicting, respectively, the English painter Thales Fielding and Eugène Delacroix, each representing the other (ill. 1 and 2).
The portrait artist Theodore Notlan Fielding had five sons who were all painters : Theodore Henry, Frederick Raffael, Copley, Thales and Newton. Copley exhibited oils on canvas and six watercolours at the Salon of 1824 in Paris where he received a gold medal, and Newton was drawing professor to Louis-Philippe’s children. Delacroix often mentions the Fieldings in his journal, especially Thales. The latter had also exhibited at the Salon of 1824 : a landscape (Mill near the Paris Gate), a frame holding watercolours, with no other details, and another watercolour representing Macbeth Meeting the Witches on the Heath, a subject which Delacroix must have liked. In 1824, Thales Fielding went back to London and lent his Parisian workshop to the French painter. In 1825, he convinced Delacroix to travel to England and showed him around during his stay in London.

2. Thomas Fielding (1793-1837)
Portrait of Eugène Delacroix, c. 1825
Oil on canvas - 34.3 x 27.3 cm
Paris, Musée Eugène Delacroix
Photo : Louvre / H. Brejat

Although Thales Fielding’s work is relatively unknown (Copley was the most famous of the five brothers), the quality of the Delacroix portrait is quite striking and on a level with its pseudo-pair. This was an exercise between friends, with each artist painting the other to keep as a souvenir. The two canvases met different ends : Delacroix kept Fielding’s portrait all his life and it was described in the catalogue of the sale held after his death. Fielding exhibited Delacroix’ likeness at the Royal Academy in 1827 and in 1831 added the medal of the legion of honor which the French painter had just received to the composition.
The gallery should be commended for having succeeded in bringing together these two works as should the museum for having acquired them. Although these canvases, of similar size, were not really produced as a pair, their display side by side at the Musée Delacroix is highly pertinent [1], particularly as they join another portrait, The Young Man Wearing a Blue Beret which today is thought to be by Thales’ brother, Copley Fielding. In searching the database Outre-Manche, listing works by English artists in French public collections (see news item of 3/12/08), there is only one entry for Thales Fielding : a watercolour held at the Musée Magnin in Dijon, Bucolic Composition Inspired by Virgil.

To honor these acquisitions the Musée Delacroix is currently exhibiting British paintings lent by the Louvre (several landscapes by Constable, the major Bonington works, as well as paintings by Etty, Landseer and Lawrence). This allows visitors to view these pieces which are no longer exhibited in their museum since the Salle des Sept Cheminées has been taken over by the Département des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines while awaiting the opening, delayed repeatedly, of English painting rooms.

Version française

Didier Rykner, jeudi 14 mai 2009


[1] Let us point out that they were first shown together at the exhibition Crossing the Channel in 2003 in London and New York (see article in French).

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