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Eugène Delacroix

French Painter

Eugène Delacroix Photo
Movements and Styles: Romanticism, Orientalism, Primitivism in Art

Born: April 26, 1798 - Charenton Saint Maurice, Paris, France

Died: August 24, 1863 - Paris, France

"The primary merit of a painting is to be a feast for the eye."

Eugène Delacroix Signature

Summary of Eugène Delacroix

Delacroix is widely regarded as the leader of the Romantic movement in 19th-century French art. His life and work embodied the movement's concern for emotion, exoticism, and the sublime, and his painting style - full of lush, agitated brushwork and pulsating with vivid color - was in direct contrast to the cool and controlled delineations of his peer and rival, Ingres. Delacroix eschewed academic conventions in his choice of subjects, favoring scenes from contemporary history rendered on a large scale in the most dramatic of fashions, with visibly energized brushwork and dynamic figural compositions. Delacroix's work also embodies Romanticism's obsession with the exotic Other, seen in his paintings inspired by a transformational trip to North Africa, but his animal pictures can also be viewed in this vein. Interestingly, many of his works were based on direct observation of nature (he was a prodigious draftsman and took an interest in early photography), which he then combined with a narrative imagination, not surprising given his intimacy with many of the most famous writers of his day.

Key Ideas

Many of Delacroix's Salon paintings depicted dramatic scenes drawn from contemporary history as well as literature. Some of the subjects were shocking for their violence and unabashed portrayal of human suffering, such as Death of Sardanapalus and Massacre at Chios. These works signaled a new direction in modern art, one that emphasized emotional content above order and rationality.
Delacroix's animal paintings embody Romanticism's love of all things wild and untamed. He based these works on studies he made in Paris's Jardin des Plantes, where he sketched lions in the zoo, as well as drawings he made of domestic house cats.
Delacroix's modest still lifes are nonetheless masterful in their use of color harmonies and composition, and demonstrate the artist's desire to master all artistic genres, as a true virtuoso. These works would later influence Impressionist artists who rendered the traditional genre of still life in fresh and modern ways.
Delacroix gained many significant commissions to paint public buildings and churches in France. These decorative projects, such as ceiling paintings and wall murals, allowed the artist to work on a larger scale than ever before, and would later influence the Nabis and other Symbolists who sought to free painting from the confines of the easel.
The visual impact of Delacroix's art owes a great deal to his study of color; he understood (and employed) such principles as the division of tones and the harmony of contrasts, both of which would be enormously important for later modernists such as Van Gogh and Seurat.
Eugène Delacroix Photo

Some controversy surrounds the birth of Eugène Delacroix because of the timing of his father's operation to remove a testicular tumor just seven months before his birth. Most believe, however, that he was the youngest of four children born to parents Victorie Oeben and Charles Delacroix, a foreign minister under Napoleon's regime. Delacroix's early life was filled with much loss including the death of his father when he was seven; his brother was killed in battle when he was nine; and his mother passed away in 1814 when he was just sixteen.

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