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Eugene Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix

French painter
(1798 - 1863)

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
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 Sardanapulus, 1827-28
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 people, 1830
Liberty Leading the People, 1830
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).

The Jewish bride of Tangier, 1832
The Jewish 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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