- The Fiery Dynamism of Eugène Delacroix [Biography]
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Eugène Delacroix

"I confess that I have worked logically, I, who have no love for logical painting. I see now that my turbulent mind needs activity, that it must break out and try a hundred different ways before reaching the goal towards which I am always straining. There is an old leaven working in me, some black depth that must be appeased. Unless I am writhing like a serpent in the coils of a pythoness I am cold. I must recognize this and accept it, and to do so is the greatest happiness. Everything good that I have ever done has come about in this way."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 7 May 1824

Born toward the end of the Rococo period, Delacroix began taking art lessons as a teenager. Delacroix studied briefly with the academic painter Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, who had also taught Géricault, but Delacroix had little sympathy with the systematic method and classicising of subjects Guérin propounded. Delacroix was keenly interested in the new directions taken by Goya, Gros and Géricault. Largely self-taught from looking at the works of Michaelangelo, Rubens, and Titian in the Louvre, Delacroix made many acute observations about his art in his journal, a highly valuable document that remains compelling reading.

In 1822 the young painter submitted his first picture, Dante and Virgil in Hell, to the Paris Salon exhibition. His next Salon entry, which the French government purchased, was the emotionally charged Massacre at Chios, recording an event on the Greek island of Chios in which twenty thousand Greeks were killed by Turks.

In the same vein, Delacrois painted his most famous work, The 28th July: Liberty Leading the People, inspired by a five-day French uprising reminiscent of the French Revolution almost forty years before. While most of his works during this time were inspired by historical battle themes, many others were derived from his lifelong love of literature, such as his painting for the 1827 Salon, The Death of Sardanapalus, based on a Lord Byron poem.

Delacroix found further inspiration during a trip to England, where he visited the galleries and the theatre. Of particular interest to him were the paintings of John Constable, the great English painter whose luminous landscapes gave Delacroix the urge to experiment with colour.

In the early 1830s he accompanied a French delegation to North Africa, where he made numerous sketches that were to serve as inspirations for later paintings of the then-exotic part of the world. His canvases took on an intoxicating, exotic atmosphere and from this time on his palette brightened. Women of Algiers is an excellent example of the influence of this Moroccan excursion on his work.

In 1833 he began a career as a muralist, and for the next three decades he painted the ceilings and walls of public buildings throughout Paris, mostly on governmental commissions.

contributed by Gifford, Katya


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