Eugène Delacroix

Biography of Eugène Delacroix
Félix Nadar / Public domain

Eugène Delacroix Biography

Eugène Delacroix whose full name is Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was born on April 26, 1798, in the commune of Charenton Saint-Maurice, France, and died on August 13, 1863, in Paris, France. He was an important painter and central figure of French romanticism. He is recognized for always being against the rules imposed by art academies and being a man of a complex personality.

He was born into a family of good resources, was the fourth and last child of the couple formed by the politician and foreign minister of the Directory, Charles-François Delacroix, and Victoire Oeben, which belonged to a family of cabinetmakers, draughtsmen, and artisans. It is speculated that his real father is the diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, a close friend of the family, with whom he had many physical similarities.

After the death of Charles Delacroix in 1805, the family moved to Paris, where they would reside in the home of their older sister: Henriette de Verninac.

The following year, in 1806, Eugène would be enrolled in the Imperial Lyceum, where he began the traditional and artistic learning. By 1813, the family moved again, this time they are welcomed into the home of their cousins ​​the Bataille, in Valmont. This place would mark the young Eugène for the magnificence in the nature of the place, the ruins and the mysterious that emanate. Also around this time, he would visit the city of Rouen, where he would fall in love with medieval Gothic architecture.

In 1814, his mother died, remaining an orphan and in charge of his sister Henriette. In 1815, on the advice of his uncle Henri-Francois Riesener, he entered the workshop of the painter Pierre Narcisse Guérin, where he would be instructed in the neoclassical models, counting on masters such as Théodore Géricault and Antoine-Jean Gros, to whom he owed much in the development of his style. In those years of study, he visited the Louvre museum, where he would study and copy the art of those he admired as Velázquez, Rafael, Rubens, Rembrandt, Paolo Veronese, among others.

In 1816, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, in order to outline his nascent style that was debated between classicism and his conceptions from the tradition. In this place, he would also learn to master the watercolor technique of Raymond Soulier and the ways of capturing the nature of Richard Parker Bonington. Around 1817, he served as a model for one of the castaways in the painting The balsa de la Medusa by Théodore Géricault. In 1819, he received his first assignment: La Virgen de la Mieses for the parish church of Orcemont.

During these years he worked alongside with writers such as Stendhal, Mérimée, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Baudelaire, and with musicians such as Paganini, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert, among many others. The reason for this is because he preferred the company of these figures of art rather than his own fellow painters because he felt a strong appreciation for them and even some were represented in his works.

The skill of his art began to be noticed from two ambitious paintings: Dante and Virgil in the Underworld (1822) and The Massacre of Chios (1824), in which he condensed all his acquired knowledge, finely working the colors, lights, and muscles.

Liberty Leading the People / Eugène Delacroix

In 1825, he traveled to England to study more about the art of English painters and the use of colors to generate effects on the mind of the recipient. A study that finished consolidating 1832 in his trip to Morocco, in which the light of that place, the people, and the landscapes would impact in their imagination and later work.

Delacroix was ​​emerging as an exponent of French romanticism for the traits that combine eroticism and death, oriental decorations, mastery of color on the line, and try to capture the will of man as a fundamental factor.

Inspired by the animals that captured his gaze, Delacroix began studies on anatomy, making more than 100 drawings of these and some sketches. The artistic result of the investigation that he made in this trip can be appreciated in Arab saddling his horse (1855) and the Arabian horse fight in a block (1860).

Since his return to France, he received multiple commissions between 1827 and 1832. He also created paintings of historical and literary themes and even made illustrations for a French version of Goethe’s Faust.

By 1859, his deteriorating health and watery laryngitis prevented him from working continuously in his pictorial creation. Despite being in these serious conditions, he continued his work decorating the interiors of the Bourbon palace, the Luxembourg Palace, the Louvre museum and the Saint-Sulpice church.

On August 13, 1863, he would die in Paris, leaving behind four large canvases that would be part of Hartmann’s dining room. His diaries published posthumously between 1893 and 1895 reveal the deep concern he had about art, the role of the artist, the sense of politics and life itself. In the last pages of this, he would write

“The merit of a painting is to produce a feast for the eyes. The same thing that is said to have an ear for music, the eyes must have the capacity to enjoy the beauty of a painting. Many have the false or inert look; they see objects, but not their excellence.”

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