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Eugène Delacroix

Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix was one of the most important French painter who is regarded as the main representative of Romanticism , whose force is the extent of his career. At forty, his reputation is sufficiently established to receive large orders from the state. He painted on canvas and decorated the walls and ceilings of public monuments. He also left engravings and lithographs, several articles written for magazines and a Journal published shortly after his death and several times reprinted. Noticed atSalon in 1824, he produced in the following years works inspired by historical or literary anecdotes as well as contemporary events ( Liberty guiding the people ) or a trip to the Maghreb ( Women of Algiers in their apartment ).

The beginning of career

His debut painting (1819-1821)
In 1819 , Delacroix began for the first time the decoration with the dining room of the mansion of M. Lottin de Saint-Germain, in the Ile de la Cité . He finished the tops in the Pompeian style before March 1820 . From this now-defunct ensemble, only the drawings and projects, characters, allegorical or mythological scenes left in the Louvre Museum remain .

The tragedian Talma entrusts him in 1821 for the decor of the dining room of the mansion he built at 9 rue de la Tour-des-Dames in Montmartre four door tops presenting the four seasons in a style Greco-Roman inspired by the frescoes of Herculaneum , like those of M. Lottin 36 . The Louvre has a number of preparatory drawings and projects, the rest being kept in a private collection in Paris .

His first easel paintings are two altarpieces inspired by the Renaissance painters:

The Virgin of the Harvests ( 1819 , Church of St Eutrope of Orcemont , near Rambouillet ), influenced by the Florentine Madonnas of Raphael , notably La Belle jardinière (1507-1508, Louvre Museum ).

The Virgin of the Sacred Heart

The Virgin of the Sacred Heart ( 1821 , Cathedral of Ajaccio ), reminds Michelangelo by the solid and static aspect of the figure of the Virgin. The Ministry of the Interior had commissioned this altarpiece for the Saint-Pierre cathedral from Nantes to Géricault , who, uninterested in the subject, subcontracted it to Delacroix, who had pressing needs for money. Batissier reveal the substitution in 1842 in the Journal of the xix th Century.

The Virgin of the Sacred Heart

The revelation of a talent (1822-1824)

In 1822 , Delacroix, eager to make a name for himself in painting and to find a way out of his financial difficulties, appeared for the first time at the Salon with Dante’s Barque or Dante and Virgile au Enfers that the State bought him for 2 000 francs, for the 2,400 he asked for. The reactions of the critics are sharp, even virulent. “A true tartouillade g ,” writes Étienne-Jean Delécluze , a student of Jacques-Louis David and defender of his school David , in the Moniteur of 18 May. However, Adolphe Thiers, A young journalist, evokes “the future of a great painter” in a laudatory article of Constitutional May 11. As for Antoine-Jean Gros , who admires La Barque de Dante , he describes the painter as ” Rubens chastised” .

The Barque of Dante
Having defined his subject very late, in mid-January, Delacroix must work urgently to be ready to exhibit at the Salon Officiel, from 24 April. He uses varnishes that cause faster drying of colors, but compromise the conservation of his canvas. The underlying dark layers drying faster than the light layers on the surface cause huge cracks and cracks. He will get in February 1860 for permission to restore itself.

The theme, taken from the song VIII of the Inferno of Dante , is unprecedented for the time. The contemporaries, having only a superficial knowledge of Dante’s work , still illustrate the same episodes: the story of Ugolin ( Hell , song XXXIII ), Paolo and Francesca (Hell, song V ), and La Barque of Charon (Hell, song III). The choice of the anecdote and a format until this time reserved for religious, mythological or historical subjects for this painting on literary subject demonstrate the novelty of Delacroix, who wants to prove that he is a true painter, and that he masters the different parts of his art: the nude, the drapery, the expression.

For this painting, the influences are multiple. The critical reports similarities between The Barque of Dante and The Raft of the Medusa (1819 Louvre ) of Géricault , a close look, a boat, the raging waves, the better to reduce the importance.

Théodore Géricault influenced considerably Delacroix, especially early in his career. He borrows his way: strong contrasts of shadows and lights giving relief and modeling . He also uses some of his colors: vermilion , Prussian blue , brown , colored whites . The Turkish officer kidnapping on his horse the Greek slave of the Scene of the massacres of Scio ( 1824 , Louvre museum ) is inspired by the officer of chasseurs on horseback of Géricault] ( 1812 , musée du Louvre ). When he died 26 January the 1824 , Delacroix becomes despite himself the leader of Romanticism.

Massacre at Chios

He was attracted to the romantics. Their ideas, thoughts and ideas are reflected in his second painting The Chaos Massacre , which met with a shared critique. With this picture, its importance in the younger generation of painters was no longer deniable. He was regarded as the leading painter of the Romantic, even if he himself repeatedly denied this leadership role.

Delacroix read poems by Lord Byron and became interested in the theater. He especially appreciated the dramas of William Shakespeare and Goethe’s Faust . To Faust he made in 1827 17 lithographs . In the same year he exhibited his painting The Death of the Sardanapal , which shocked the critics. Many urged him not to waste his talent in such excesses. These voices died down in 1831 when he exhibited The Liberty Leading the People to the Glory and Memory of the July Revolution in the Salon. With this picture he consolidated his leading role among the painters.

Liberty Leading the People Delacroix

Influential friends allowed Delacroix a trip to Morocco and a visit to the local sultan. He could now see with his own eyes things that the romantics had imagined in their imagination. Delacroix was impressed by the radiant light, the lush colors, and the simple dignity of Islam. The notes and sketches made in this time by the hundreds remained for him a constant source of inspiration. Studies on animals and especially his paintings on lion hunting are also an expression of this creative period.

Returning to France, the government commissioned him with several paintings, which employed him to the end of his life. The fact that he worked for months without interruption, non-stop designs and sketches while still directing his staff, he had little free time. In the morning he found diversion in the salons where his wit and intelligence were in demand. He had few real friends, including George Sand and Frédéric Chopin .

As he matured, Delacroix, who retired more and more, was honored with great honors. At the 1855 World’s Fair , a retrospective was dedicated to him. He was also awarded the Grand Médaille d’Honneur, became commander of the Legion of Honor and 1857 member of the École des Beaux-Arts, to which he sent his last picture in 1859. Four years later he died of a chronic neck disease.

Pioneer of Impressionism

Delacroix turned against the prevailing practice of the classicists in his time , who gave preference to the brightness values in painting for the sake of the plastic ideal, and who regarded the color values ​​of color as secondary. Delacroix, along with other romantics, such as Turner, felt that painting deceived them with their very own remedy, the color values ​​themselves. With their help, he determined the overall effect of the image. According to the respective topic, he first put the colors together on the palette in order to influence the character of the work right from the start. In this way, Delacroix achieved enormous wealth in color differentiation.

The use of the optical mixture and the reflex colors, which are based on the close observation of the changing light conditions, also announces Delacroix ‘style of painting Impressionism.