In what has become one of the most famous tributes by a poet to a painter, Baudelaire lamented Delacroix’s death as a national sorrow that “brings with it a lowering of general vitality; a clouding of the intellect which is like an eclipse of the sun; a momentary imitation of the end of the world.” If our own time appears oblivious to artistic achievement, Baudelaire’s does not sound much better. He continues:

I believe however that this impression is chiefly confined to those proud anchorites who can only make themselves a family by means of intellectual relations. As for the rest of the community, it is only gradually that they most of them learn to realize the full extent of their country’s loss in losing its great man, and to appreciate what an empty space he has left behind him. And yet it is only right to warn them.

“The Life and Work of Eugène Delacroix” (1 ...