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Biography of Eugène Delacroix
French Romantic painter, lithographer, muralist, author, pastellist & draftsman
born 26 April 1798 - died 13 August 1863
Also known as: Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix.
Student of: Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774-1833).
Teacher of: Léon Bonnat (1833-1922), Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898).
Friend of: Léon Cogniet (1794-1880), Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904), Newton Fielding (1797-1856).
Patronized by: Duchesse de Berry Caroline (1798-1870).
Rival of: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), Ary Scheffer (1795-1858).
DELACROIX, FERDINAND VICTOR EUGENE (1798-1863), French historical painter, leader of the Romantism movement, was born at Charenton-St-Maurice,
near Paris, on the 26th of April 1798. Eugène Delacroix was first nearly burned to death in the
cradle by a nurse falling asleep over a novel and the candle dropping on the coverlet; this left permanent marks on his
arms and face. The artist was next dropped into the sea by another bonne, who
was climbing up a ship’s side to see her lover. He was nearly poisoned, and
nearly choked, and, to crown all, Eugène Delacroix tried to hang himself,
without any thought of suicide, in imitation of a print exhibiting a man in that
position of final ignominy.
Eugène Delacroix entered the atelier of Baron Guérin, who affected to treat him as an amateur. His fellow-pupil was Ary Scheffer, who was alike by temperament and antecedents the opposite of the bizarre Delacroix, and the two remained antagonistic to the end of life. Acknowledged power of Eugène Delacroix and yet want of success with artists and critics — Thiers being his only advocate — perhaps mainly resulted from his bravura and rude dash in the use of the brush, at a time when smooth roundness of surface was general. The first important Delacroix painting, Dante and Virgil, was painted in his own studio; and when Guérin went to see it he flew into a passion, and told him Delacroix art was absurd, detestable, exaggerated.
Liberty Leading the People
The most influential Delacroix painting came in 1830 with the painting Liberty Leading the People, which for choice of subject and technique highlights the differences between the romantic approach and the neoclassical style. Less obviously, it also differs from the Romanticism of Géricault and the Raft of the Medusa.
Probably the best known Delacroix art, it is an unforgettable image of Parisians, having taken up arms, marching forward under the banner of the tricolour representing liberty, equality, and fraternity; Eugène Delacroix was inspired by contemporary events to invoke the romantic image of the spirit of liberty. The soldiers lying dead in the foreground offer poignant counterpoint to the symbolic female figure, who is illuminated triumphantly, as if in a spotlight.
The French government bought the Delacroix painting Liberty Leading the People, but officials deemed its glorification of liberty too inflammatory and removed it from public view.
Following the Revolution of 1848 that saw the end of the reign of King Louis Philippe, Delacroix' painting, Liberty Leading the People, was finally put on display by the newly elected President, Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III).
Delacroix paintings were received at the Salon, and produced an enthusiasm of debate (1822). Some said Géricault had worked on it, but all treated it with respect. Still in private his position, even after the larger tragic picture, the Massacre of Chios, had been deposited in the Luxembourg by the government (1824), became that of an Ishmaelite. The war for the freedom of Greece then going on moved him deeply, and the next two Delacroix art — Marino Faliero Decapitated on the Giant’s Staircase of the Ducal Palace (which has always remained a European success), and Greece Lamenting on the Ruins of Missolonghi — with many smaller Delacroix paintings, were exhibited for the benefit of the patriots in 1826.
This exhibition was much visited by the public, and next year he produced another important Delacroix painting, Sardanapalus, from Byron’s drama. The patrimony he inherited, or perhaps it should be said, what remained of it, was 10,000 livres de rente, and with economy he lived on this, and continued the expensive process of painting large historical pictures. In 1831 Eugène Delacroix reappeared in, the Salon with six paintings, and immediately after left for Morocco, where he found much congenial matter. Delacroix never went to Italy; he refused to go on principle, lest the old masters, either in spirit or manner, should impair his originality and self-dependence. His greatest admiration in literature was the poetry of Byron; Shakespeare also attracted him for tragic inspirations; and of course classic subjects had their turn of his easel.
He continued Eugène Delacroix painting indefatigably, having his pictures very seldom favorably received at the Salon. These were sometimes very large, full of incidents, with many figures. Drawing of Lots in the Boat at Sea, from Byron’s Don Juan, and the Taking of Constantinople by the Christians were of that character, and the former was one of his noblest creations.
|In 1845 Eugène Delacroix was employed to decorate the library of the Luxembourg, that of the chamber of deputies in 1847, the ceiling of the gallery of Apollo in the Louvre in 1849 and that of the Salon de la Paix in the hotel de ville in 1853. Eugène Delacroix died on the 13th of August 1863, and in August 1864 an exhibition of his works was opened on the Boulevard des Italiens. It contained 174 pictures, many of them of large dimensions, and 303 drawings, showing immense perseverance as well as energy and versatility. As a colourist, and a romantic painter, Eugène Delacroix now ranks among the greatest of French artists.|
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