Dominique de Font-Réaulx’s career is very impressive. Among other responsibilities including teaching and scientific advisory, she is Chief Curator at the Louvre Museum, Director of the Eugène Delacroix museum in Paris and Curator of Shakespeare romantique, an exhibition presented in Saint-Omer and Namur, France and Belgium.
Working closely with Henri Loyrette, Dominique de Font-Réaulx oversaw the scientific coordination of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Previously, she was curator at the Musée d’Orsay, in charge of the photographic collection.
She has curated numerous exhibitions, including Le daguerréotype français, un objet photographique (Musée d’Orsay, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) in 2003; Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) (National Galleries of the Grand Palais, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fabre Museum) in 2007-2008; and Delacroix et l’Antique (Musée Eugène Delacroix) in 2015, among other seminal shows. She also published Peinture et photographie, les enjeux d’une rencontre, Flammarion, in 2012.
Here, Dominique de Font-Réaulx talks to Art is Alive about the precious National Eugène Delacroix Museum in Paris. Located in Delacroix’s last workshop and apartment, in the heart of Saint-Germain-Des-Prés, the museum is a beautiful space. Designed by the painter himself, the workshop was transformed into a museum at the initiative of painter Maurice Denis.
Since 2004, the museum invites contemporary artists for temporary presentations and this October, Katinka Bock had carte blanche in the garden of the museum. Close to Arte Povera, Bock’s work uses modest materials including clay, wood and terracotta to explore themes of language, common spaces and sense of belonging.
As Director of the Delacroix Museum, what’s your biggest challenge: curating exhibitions, acquiring relevant works or making sure people come to the museum?
Quite difficult to say; they’re all three crucial. I’ll say making sure people come to the museum. But not saying that we should attract people at any price. Making sure people come to the museum to see beautiful exhibitions and outstanding works.
Tell us something we don’t know about Delacroix and the museum?
Delacroix organized it as a retreat for his work and for his writing. When he settled there, he had François-René de Chateaubriand in mind. He was thinking about the beautiful Vallée-aux-loups, a charming place close to Paris where Chateaubriand spent a few years.
What are your views about the “injection” or “juxtaposition” of contemporary art in pre-20th century art museums? Do you think that’s a strong way to present art?
Injection and /or juxtaposition are not relevant. Presentation of contemporary art needs to be consistent with the museum and its collection. The Delacroix Museum is a place for artists, founded as an artist’s studio and transformed into a museum by artists. It’s both a lieu de mémoire (as we say in French i.e place of memory) and a living space for creation.
Working at the Delacroix museum, have you uncovered new things about the artist, the space where he worked, and have you changed your perspective on the artist?
Many! Let me give you two : his desire for intimacy when he settled Place de Fürstenberg, his lure to get back to the spirit of the area where he lived when he was young (he shared a studio with the English painter Thales Fielding in 1823 / 1824, rue Jacob); the crucial role of writing during his creation process and during his entire life.
What makes his oeuvre so relevant to art history today?
The fact that he had remained true to his own ideal. He stands as one of the first modern artists.
Please select one highlight in the museum collection and tell us why it’s such a significant work?
Madeleine au désert, oil on canvas, 1845. Delacroix painted it in 1845 and presented it twice, at the 1845 Salon and at the 1855 World Exhibition in Paris. The painting was the favourite picture of Charles Baudelaire. Delacroix succeeded in associating both holiness and sensuality. He renewed the classical theme of Marie-Madeleine.
Tell us about a few artworks in the collection and artworks in storage?
Works in storage are mainly paper works. They cannot be presented all the year round. One of the works I do like most is the invitation draft Delacroix wrote for the invitation to the Saint-Sulpice paintings unveiling in August 1861. Doing so he revealed his choice for the paintings subjects. It’s quite moving.
Your dream-projects related to Delacroix?
Succeeding in producing a web series dedicated to him, enabling young people to discover the man, the painter, the writer.
Future Delacroix exhibitions / projects we should be aware of?
Next April (2018), we will present a new exhibition dedicated to Delacroix’s works at musée Delacroix from 11 April to 24 July 2018, Une lutte moderne, from Tiziano to Chagall. Delacroix’s sources of inspiration, his own sketches and works by artists who had been inspired by his creations will be displayed. We’ll have wonderful loans, from the British Museum, the MET, many French museums, and private collections.
Your tastes in contemporary art, who do you look at and like?
I’m quite eclectic and I like to be surprised. I do like subtle creations; that’s the reason why I’ve been so happy to show Katinka Bock’s works at musée Delacroix.