In 1963, traveling as students used to during the summer vacation, I found myself in Paris in time for the large exhibition organized by the Louvre to commemorate the centennial of the death of Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). I am sorry to report that this can be described only as a Significant Waste. As an art-history major, I dutifully visited the show, but I simply wasn't up to it. I was too young, too ignorant, too uninformed to deal with all that Romantic intensity. It seemed excessive, faintly embarrassing. My favorite Old Masters, at the time, were Uccello and Piero della Francesca, although I also harbored a remarkable enthusiasm for de Kooning in his Pink Angels phase; some things you outgrow. I hadn't seen enough, lived long enough, or looked hard enough at enough art to make the kind of associations Delacroix demands. Unable to grasp what he had to say about the tradition of Western painting, indeed about painting itself, I...


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