HumanitiesWeb.org - The Fiery Dynamism of Eugène Delacroix [Quotations]
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Eugène Delacroix
Quotations



"What moves men of genius, or rather, what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 15 May 1824

"What moves men of genius, or rather, what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 15 May 1824
 
"It has occurred to me that artists who have a sufficiently rigorous style are most to be excused from exact imitation, Michelangelo, for example. When they reach a certain point, they more than make up in independence and audacity for what they lose in literal truth."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 25 January 1850
 
"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
 
"But what is this urge not only to write, but to publish one's work? Besides the pleasure of being praised, there is the thought of communicating with other souls capable of understanding one's own, and thus of one's work becoming a meeting place for the souls of men. The very people who believe that everything has already been discovered and everything said, will greet your work as something new, and will close the door behind you, repeating once more that nothing remains to be said. ... Newness is in the mind of the artist who creates, and not in the object he portrays."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 14 May 1824
 
"'In painting, and especially in portraiture,' says Mme Cave in her treatise, 'mind speaks to mind, and not knowledge to knowledge.' This observation, which may be more profound than she knows herself, is an indictment of pedantry in execution. I have said to myself over and over again that painting, i.e. the material process which we call painting, is no more than the pretext, the bridge between the mind of the artist and that of the beholder. Cold accuracy is not art. Skillful invention, when it is pleasing or expressive, is art itself. The so-called conscientiousness of the great majority of painters is nothing but perfection in the art of boring. If it were possible, these fellows would labour with equal care over the backs of their pictures. It might be interesting to write a treatise on all the falsities that can be added together to make a truth."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 18 July 1850
 
"Always use the sketch to feel your way, and go ahead confidently when it comes to executing the picture."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 10 August 1850
 
"The way in which the work has been planned, and certain exaggerated forms, show that Rubens was working like a craftsman practising the trade he knew and not for ever trying to improve upon it. The flow of his thought was uninterrupted because he was dealing with something that he understood. He clothed his thoughts in images that were readily accessible to him, translating the sublime ideas that came to him in such a variety into forms which superficial people call monotonous, not to mention their other complaints. But a profound thinker who has delved deeply into the secrets of art is not disturbed by such 'monotony', for a continual return to the same forms show the imprint of a great master; it is also the instinctive action of a wise and practised hand. It is this which gives the impression that compositions were produced smoothly and easily, a feel that adds greatly to the power of the work."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 27 January 1852
 
"You must have complete freedom of imagination when you are painting a picture. The living model, compared with the figure which you have created and harmonized with the rest of the composition, is apt to confuse you and to introduce a foreign element into the ensemble of the picture."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 26 April 1852
 
"A picture should be laid-in as if one were looking at the subject on a grey day, with no sunlight or clear-cut shadows. Fundamentally, light and shadows do not exist. Every object presents a colour-mass, having different reflections on all sides. Suppose a ray of sunshine should suddenly light up the objects in this open-air scene under grey light, you will then have what are called lights and shadows but they will be pure accidents."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 5 May 1852
 
"One always has to spoil a picture a little in order to finish it. The last touches, which are given to bring the different parts into harmony, take away from the freshness. It has to appear in public shorn of all those happy negligences which an artist delights in."
- Excerpt from Delacroix's journal, 13 April 1852
 
"Prud'hon's true genius lay in allegory; this is his empire and his true domain."
 
"I am quite overwhelmed by what I have seen"
- on his trip to Morocco
 
"Born poor and almost unknown during most of his short life, he worked alone the most important revolution which painting has ever experienced. The splendor of the Italian school began with him. Until then it had not discovered that charm peculiar to itself, that of real expression together with a great beauty and purity"
 
"Grey is the enemy of all art."
 
"A fine suggestion, a sketch with great feeling can be as expressive as the most finished productions."
 
"If you are not skillful enough to make a sketch of a man throwing himself out of the window in the time he takes to fall from the fourth floor to the ground, you will never be able to produce big compositions."
 
"Perhaps the sketch of a work is so pleasing because everyone can finish it as he chooses. The artist does not spoil the picture by finishing it; only, in abondoning the vagueness of the sketch he shows more of his personality by revealing all the range but also the limitations of his talent. To finish requires a heart of steel: one must make a decision about everything."
 
"One always begins by imitating. "
 
"It is often we come the closest to the essence of an artist... in his or her pocket notebooks and travel sketchbooks... where written comments and personal notes provide an intimate insight into the magical mind of a working artist."
 
"What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough."
 
"In abandoning the vagueness of the sketch the artist shows more of his personality by revealing the range but also the limitations of his talent."
 
"Give me some mud, and I will paint you a woman’s flesh."
 
"One must learn to be grateful for one's own findings. "
 
"Not one great mind coming after them [great artists] but owes them tribute, and finds in them the prototype of his own inspiration."
 
"If you are not skillful enough to sketch a man jumping out of a window in the time it takes him to fall from the fourth storey to the ground, you will never be able to produce great works."
 
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