Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was a
French painter whose work exemplified 19th-century romanticism,
and whose influence extended to the impressionists.
|The Barque of Dante, 1822
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Delacroix was born on April 26, 1798, at Charenton-Saint Maurice,
and he studied under the French painter Pierre Guérin.
He was trained in the formal neoclassical style of the French
painter Jacques-Louis David, but he was strongly influenced by
the more colorful, opulent style of such earlier masters as the
Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens and the Italian painter Paolo
Veronese. He also absorbed the spirit of his contemporary and
countryman Theodore Gericault, whose early works exemplify the
violent action, love of liberty, and budding romanticism of the
turbulent post-Napoleonic period.
Delacroix's artistic career began in 1822, when his first painting,
The Barque of Dante (1822, Musée du Louvre,
Paris), was accepted by the Paris Salon. He achieved popular success
in 1824 with Massacre at Chios (Louvre), which portrays
the topical and heroic subject of the Greek struggle for independence.
|The Death of Sardanapalus,
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
On a trip to England in 1825, he studied the work of English
painters. The influence of R. P. Bonington, who painted in bright,
jewel-like colors, is evident in Delacroix's subsequent works,
such as Death of Sardanapalus (1827, Musée
du Louvre), inspired by Lord Byron's poetry. A full-fledged work
of his mature style, it is a lavish, violent, colorful canvas
in which women, slaves, animals, jewels, and fabrics are combined
in a swirling, almost delirious composition. The painting portrays
the decision made by an ancient king to have his possessions (including
his women) destroyed before he kills himself.
|Liberty Leading the
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Delacroix's most overtly romantic and perhaps most influential
work is Liberty Leading the People (1830, Musée
du Louvre), a semi allegorical glorification of the idea of liberty.
This painting confirmed the clear division between the romantic
style of painting, which emphasized color and spirit, and the
concurrent neoclassical style (headed by the French painter J.
A. D. Ingres), which emphasized line and cool detachment. It was
partially inspired by Théodore Géricault's Raft of the Medusa.
The French government bought Delacroix's painting but almost immediately
reconsidered, deeming the painting too inflammatory. It was removed
from public view until the revolution of 1848. The painting is
2.59 x 3.25 m (8 ft 6 in x 10 ft 8 in).
Bride of Tangier
1832, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Delacroix remained the dominant French romantic painter throughout
his life. A trip to Morocco in 1832 provided subjects for more
than 100 sensuous canvases. The ancient, proud, and exotic culture
moved him to write "I am quite overwhelmed by what
I have seen". In addition, he received many government
commissions for murals and ceiling paintings. Many of his late
works, especially animal pictures, hunt scenes, and marine subjects,
are superb, but others exhibit a certain dryness of execution
and lack of inspiration.
He also illustrated various works of William Shakespeare, the
Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, and the German writer Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe (he created a set of 17 lithographs to illustrate
a French edition of Goethe's Faust).
Delacroix's technique, in which he applied contrasting colors
with small strokes of the brush, creating a particularly vibrant
effect, was an important influence on the impressionists. He is
also well known for his Journals, which display considerable literary
talent and express his views on art, politics, and life. Delacroix
died in Paris on August 13, 1863.
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