A&O QUOTE – Delacroix on Painting as Communication


What Delacroix said about art as communication


Eugene Delacroix said

“…painting, that is to say the material thing called painting [is] no more than the pretext, than the bridge between the mind of the painter and that of the spectator.” (1850)[i]  


Self-portrait, 1837. “Eugène Delacroix was a curious mixture of skepticism, politeness, dandyism, willpower, cleverness, despotism, and finally, a kind of special goodness and tenderness that always accompanies genius”.[24]


“To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, line, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling—this is the activity of art”

(Tolstoy 1896/1950 What is Art. ch 5)


These comments recall Thoreau’s “It takes two to speak the truth– one to speak, and another to hear.”  (1849, “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,” “Wednesday”) . . . 

In that spirit, 

“The thing that all forms of theatre have in common is the need for an audience. This is more than a truism: In the theatre the audience completes the steps of creation.  Theatre exists in the here and now. It is what happens at that precise moment when you perform, that moment at which the world of the actors and the world of the audience meet.”  ~ Peter Brook. Quoted in http://www.peter-sardi.com.au/acting-students-working/    [but consider the “joy of singing as though no one is listening or dancing as though no one is watching”] (QI]


BUT this is true of all art. And WITHIN as well as BETWEEN people: We know that communications is essential at all levels of organization … within and between cells, organs, parts of the brain …  like all communications—the expressions that rise to the level of art may also be an important bridge between different parts of the painter’s mind. At every stage in the expression of an artist’s idea feedback and error detection guide the process

MUSIC: “It is said that Verdi sat with a pounding heart and on occasion wept while composing the music for his operas. More than a century later, some listeners show the identical reactions. Thus, like written text in literature, a musical score is the medium through which creative artists communicate with their audience.”[i,ii]  


ART is often healing–and has interesting resonance with psychotherapy:  amongst his studies of affect regulation and the self,  psychologist/neuroscientist Allan Schore, speaking of psychotherapeutic models, stated  “Current developmental models … emphasize the fact that projective identification, both in the developmental and the therapeutic situation, is not a unidirectional but instead is a bidirectional process in which both members of an emotionally communicating dyad act in a context of mutual reciprocal influence” (2003b, p. 65), and that the “bidirectional process of projective identification is actually a very rapid sequence of reciprocal affective transactions within the intersubjective field that is co-constructed by the patient and therapist” (quoted by Mary E. Pharis (2004) in her review of Schore–emphasis mine) [i]


STORIES:  There are stories and there is story-telling—the greatest stories must be told, and the teller must evoke that sensibility within himself that he wishes to convey and infuse the words with that spirit—in the sense of Stanislavsi[i].  So, how do story-tellers (anyone communicating with language) evoke receptivity or resonance within the listener?  This is one of the artist’s main problems. 

This is what Kerényi (1960) writes: “The Greek word mythologia contains the sense not only of “stories” (mythoi), but also of “telling” (legein): a form of narration that was also echo-awakening, in that it awoke the awareness that the story personally concerned the narrator and the audience.” (p4)  “… the chief characteristic of mythology is that its dramatis persone do not merely act the drama, but—like the figures of a dream—themselves actually construct it ..a little drama of their own.” (p10)  (C Kerényi (1960) The Gods of the Greeks Grove Press).

 You are seen to be trustworthy when your honesty is apparent and transparent—when your thoughts and feelings—especially as translated into action—are obvious to those around you.  But good performance is different.  In a way you deceive as a profession.  And one of the premier schools of professional deceit is that of Stanislavski—“The Method.” Some version of this is central to excellence in any profession in which emotions must be conveyed in a way that affects the listener.  People have more of less of a gift of being able to find specific emotions within themselves and represent them in the context of a performance.  [This can lead to the difficulty of performers losing the boundaries between themselves and the character they want to represent]  Like Delacroix view of the painting, the work of art is a bridge between minds  ( https://neilgreenberg.com/ao-quote-delacroix-on-painting-as-communication/ )  

[i]During the Moscow Art Theatre’s early years, Stanislavski worked on providing a guiding structure for actors to consistently achieve deep, meaningful and disciplined performances. He believed that actors needed to inhabit authentic emotion while on stage and, to do so, they could draw upon feelings they’d experienced in their own lives. Stanislavski also developed exercises that encouraged actors to explore character motivations, giving performances depth and an unassuming realism while still paying attention to the parameters of the production. This technique would come to be known as the “Stanislavski Method” or “the Method.” (https://www.biography.com/actor/constantin-stanislavski )

We speak about authentic communications between artists and their audiences—“heart to heart” communications from the greatest depth accessible to the artist to the greatest depth of the audience, Delacroix’s “mind-to-mind”

So what happens


read on





[i].Eugene Delacroix (1798‑1863): dated 1850.  Journal (1893‑1895), Eugene Delacroix, Journal, Walter Pach, translator, New York, 1972. http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/fa257/delacroix.html  Also cited by Gilson, 1957:132.  quote from Jobert, Barthélémy, Delacroix, page 62. Princeton University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-691-00418-8 (Princeton University Press published an expanded edition of this book in 2018. ISBN 978-0691182360) p27.

[i] (quoted by Mary E. Pharis (2004) in her review of: Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self and Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self by Allan N Schore (2003). Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Spring 2004, pp. 33-34.)

[ii]. Excerpt from  Josef P. Rauschecker, 2002.  “Where Science Meets the Arts,” A review of Beethoven’s Anvil Music in Mind and Culture by William Benzon (Basic Books (HarperCollins), New York, 2001. 352 pp. $27.50, ,,19.99. ISBN 0-465-01543-3) in Science 296:1032.