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The Religious Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: Professor Joyce C. Polistena, Ph.D. Explores the Work and Controversial Life of the “Hero of Romanticism”

June 7, 2022 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Location: Zoom Videoconference

Please join us for the live webinar on Tuesday, June 7 at 7 PM EST

Image: Christ in the Garden of Olives, Eugene Delacroix

French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix is best known to Americans for his painting, Liberty at the Barricades (1830). His innovative color theory, expressive brushwork and intensely felt subjects earned him the title “the hero of Romanticism.” However, the artist’s prolific and extraordinary contributions to the genre of religious art had been overlooked for more than a century.

We welcome Joyce C. Polistena, Ph.D., professor of art history and author of The Religious Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: The Initiator of the Style of Modern Religious Art, for an in-depth and insightful look at Delacroix’s religious art: the broad body of work, how it reflected societal anxieties, and the artist’s personal perceptions and conflicted views on religion.


In his lifetime, Delacroix’s religious scenes of the passion were lauded by members of the élite class, who recognized the depictions of the sufferings of Jesus almost exclusively in terms of their own anxieties in contemporary society. In succeeding eras, as avant-garde theorists relegated religious subjects to a moribund genre, Delacroix’s considerable output of religious subjects (120 in oil, pastel, pen/ink and over 220 drawings) were either ignored or dismissed as mere commissions. Critics characterized him as an avant-garde stylist, a liberal thinker with anti-Royalist sentiments, a Voltairean atheist who was adored by the poet Charles Baudelaire. However, Delacroix kept a diary from the age of 23 until his death in 1863 at the age of 65, in which he recounted the persons and ideas of his era as well as his personal perceptions and beliefs. The writing reveals an artist who counters the portrait of him created by theorists and brings to light the meaning these topics held for him.

Joyce C. Polistena, Ph.D. is an art historian and a professor of art history at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. She has written extensively on topics in 19th-century Romanticism with a focus on the artist Eugène Delacroix. Polistena’s book, The Religious Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: The Initiator of the Style of Modern Religious Art prompted a new engagement with his religious subjects – a body of works that had been neglected or dismissed for more than a century. Barthélémy Jobert, pre-eminent Delacroix scholar and President of Université Paris-Sorbonne, explained the importance of Delacroix’s religious subjects in the Foreword to her book: “…we need a fresh approach and renewed questions on one of the most important and complex oeuvres of the entire nineteenth century and of the whole Occidental history of art…Joyce Polistena has masterfully taken up the gauntlet…”


June 7, 2022
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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