Delacroix, Eugene

Delacroix, Eugene

Eugene Delacroix, the greatest of the French Romantic painters, was born near Paris. He began his studies in Bordeaux, and seemed destined for a musical career but, in 1805, he went to Paris to attend the Lycée Louis-le-Grand where he received the standard classical education. An uncle to whom Delacroix showed some sketches encouraged him to study art with Guérin and then to go on to the Beaux-Arts. Though he soon became dissatisfied with the academic training, was encouraged by the early success of his friend and fellow student Géricault. Delacroix's early interest in art included the English landscapes artists and portraitists, and he held an especial regard toward William Hogarth.

His debut at the 1821 Salon with "Dante and Virgil", a romantic and frightening work, was climaxed by the purchase of the painting by the French government. In 1824 "The Massacre at Scio", labeled by critics a "massacre of painting," established Delacroix as an intellectual who believed that the world could be made better as well as an artist who sided with the unfortunate. A visit to England and to English artists in 1825 was followed by other romantic paintings and his first period ended in 1830 with "Liberty Leading the People", a work that glorifies revolt and is heart-rending in its portrayal of the dead and dying. With this, Delacroix became the head of the Romantic School, but the failure of the Revolution of 1830 made it necessary for him to express himself in literary and exotic paintings such as those resulting from a trip to Morocco in 1832.

His love for the works of the Renaissance led Delacroix to paint animals, musicians, religious subjects, and large original murals. Delacroix's works are gloriously exciting; even the most calm seem bursting with awareness of life; and his portraits burn with an inner fire. With marvelously fluid brushwork and a rich flowing palette made up of deep reds, blues and greens, creamy whites and golden flesh tones, he created for himself and for us a world removed from drab reality, a world that is perhaps theatrical but nonetheless ecstatic. Delacroix, who had bouts of fever as early as 1820, died of a chest ailment in 1863, still sketching and making entries in the journal he had kept for many years.