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  • Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863)


    French Painter | Large Canvas Prints

    Eugene Delacroix was the major painter of the RomanticMovement in France. He was the pupil of Baron Guerin (who also taught Gericault), whose lack of artistic authority made his studio tolerant of newideas. Delacroix was the ardent admirer rather than an intimate friend of Gericault, but in the grim year which preceded his death was a frequent visitorto the dying man's studio. To Gericault's influence is probably due Delacroix'sinterest in English art and in animal painting, and his revolt from the classicizingforms and classical literary subjects which still dominated French painting inthe early i9th century. He admired Gros, studied Rubens and Veronese, andwas a friend of Bonington and an admirer of Constable. He was in England in1825 and saw the RA exhibition where he was much impressed by the charmof English colour and freshness of handling, particularly in landscape, and bythe predominance of medieval and anecdotal subject pictures.

    His first Salon exhibit, Dante and Virgil Crossing the Styx (1822: Paris, Louvre),was well received, but subsequent ones - the Massacre at Chios, 1824, and the Sardanapalus, 1829 (both now in the Louvre) were bitterly attacked for hisuse of brilliant colour, contemporary and exotic literary subjects, and freehandling, which was seen as showing the influence of Gericault and Englishart, and as a rejection of traditional French classicism.

    In 1832 he visited NorthAfrica and this opened a whole new field of subjects: scenes from Arab andJewish life, animal subjects, innumerable combinations of illustrations to Byron and allusions to the Greek wars against the Turks abound in his gigantic oeuvreafter this, and share the honours with Scott and Shakespeare as constantsources of inspiration.

    From the mid-1830s he was in official favour, receivingcommissions for large-scale decorations in which Ingres, his greatest rival andinveterate opponent, was unsuccessful. His principal decorations were the Justiceof Trajan for Rouen Town Hall (1840: now Rouen Mus.), the ceiling of theSalon d'Apollon in the Louvre (1849), and works in St Sulpice, and the Hotelde Ville (destroyed in 1870). Nevertheless, the works he was happiest with aresmall, freely handled, colourful subjects - battles, hunts, animals in combat, andportraits of intimate friends such as Chopin (1838: Louvre).

    His Diary, keptfrom 1822 to 1824, and again from 1847 to 1863, is a precious source for hislife and work, and as a commentary on the social, intellectual and artistic lifeof Paris. Delacroix only occasionally took pupils, and never taught in the sensethat Ingres did, though he had assistants for his large decorations. He left noartistic succession, for the essence of Romanticism is its personal quality. Hiscontribution to the struggle of the non-conforming artist against entrenched classicism is reflected in his long wait for election to the Institut (1857), thefrequent battles over the admission of his works to the Salon, and the venerationin which he was held by younger artists.

    There are works in Baltimore (Walters),Birmingham, Bordeaux, Boston (Mus., Gardner), Bristol, Budapest, Buffalo,Cambridge (Fitzwm), Cambridge Mass. (Fogg), Chantilly, Chicago, Cincinnati,Cleveland Ohio, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hartford Conn. (Wadsworth),Lille, London (NG, Wallace Coll.), Los Angeles, Melbourne, Metz, Minneapolis, Montpellier, Montreal, Munich, New York (Met. Mus., Brooklyn),Northampton Mass. (Smith), North Carolina (Univ.), Ottawa, Paris (Mus.d'Orsay, Camavalet), Philadelphia (Mus. and Johnson), Princeton (Univ.),Reims, St Louis, Sao Paulo, Toledo Ohio, Toronto, Toulouse, Versailles,Vienna and Washington (NG, Corcoran, Phillips).

  • Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)
    This is the most important dictionary on art and artists ever published and an essential read.






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Updated: 2012