Delacroix comes back to Morocco in unprecedented exhibition

The exhibition chronicles the trip that Eugène Delacroix made to Morocco in 1832, through a selection of paintings, drawings, watercolours, clothes, weapons, music and instruments.
Thursday 08/07/2021
The Sultan of Morocco is an 1845 oil on canvas painting by the French Romantic and Orientalist painter Eugène Delacroix. (facebook)
The Sultan of Morocco is an 1845 oil on canvas painting by the French Romantic and Orientalist painter Eugène Delacroix. (facebook)

RABAT - The French painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) has returned to Morocco.

Almost 190 years after his trip to the North African kingdom, he is back through paintings and collectibles immortalising his Moroccan journey.

The painter was in the country for six months as part of the diplomatic mission of Charles-Henri-Edgar, Comte de Mornay. During the trip, he produced impressive drawings and annotations in seven sketchbooks.

The exhibition “Delacroix, Memories of a Journey to Morocco” opened recently the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rabat, the first of its kind in Africa and the Arab world.

The show, which runs until October 9, 2021, chronicles the trip that Eugène Delacroix made to Morocco in 1832, through a selection of paintings, drawings, watercolours, clothes, weapons, music and instruments that he had brought from his trip and accompanied him throughout his career as an artist.

The exhibition was organised by the National Foundation of Museums and the National Museum of Eugène Delacroix, which is affiliated with the General Foundation of the Louvre Museum.

The opening ceremony, which was attended by many members of the diplomatic corps accredited in Rabat and actors in the fields of culture and media from Morocco and France, was followed by an exploration of the various objects and artworks displayed on this occasion, accompanied by the exhibition curators.

The artistic event allows visitors to discover the emotional bonds that tied Delacroix to Morocco, as the first ambassador of lights, colours, fashion and Moroccan traditions, which he skilfully reflected in his drawings and paintings.

Mehdi Kotbi, President of the Moroccan National Foundation of Museums, said the exhibition enables visitors to discover Delacroix as “the painter who brought colours and revolutionised the art scene in his time”, and to revisit his trip to Morocco, which remains useful to the understanding of a particular period of Moroccan history.”

Claire Besed, director of the Eugène Delacroix National Museum and the exhibition’s co-curator, praised the “experts’ view” that characterises Delacroix’s work, highlighting the impact that Morocco had on the creative genius of the artist.

She said that “Eugene Delacroix represented Morocco for more than 30 years through the paintings that he painted in his workshop in Paris,” noting that the painter relied “on his drawings, objects, memories and memories” to make his trip to Morocco come alive.

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She pointed out that “Delacroix is the first artist to come to Morocco,” noting that through his paintings that depict scenes from Morocco, he was able to create “a coherent pictorial world with quality in colours and modernity in touch, which bore an impact on artists like Matisse.”

She added that in addition to the importance of Morocco in his work, Delacroix had an influence on many artists who followed in his footsteps, including Odilon Redon, Benjamin Constant, Alfred Duden, Henry Renaud and George Klein in the twentieth century, as well as Lucien Levy, Théophile Jean Delay and Charles Camoin.

Abdelaziz El Idrissi, director of the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and co-curator of the exhibition, pointed out that Delacroix “is credited with changing the attitudes of artists from Italy and the East to North Africa and towards Morocco in particular.”

He said that “this journey in North Africa simply redirected the attention of European artists,” noting that Delacroix had formed a group with marked interest in the heritage dimension.

According to Idrissi, this group, which dates back to the beginning of the eighteenth century, has the peculiarity of being a group that chronicles the artist’s evolution “before and after this travel.”

Idrisi added that “this collection preceded the late influences that reached Morocco in the second half of the nineteenth century,” noting that it “serves as an element that can constitute a reference” for conducting studies and research on the collections available in Moroccan museums.