Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863) was a French Romantic artist. Delacroix’s style was characterized by vivid color, dramatic gestures, and boldness of expression. His work was instrumental in the development of both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
Eugène Delacroix was born on April 26, 1798, in Charenton-Saint-Maurice, France. He was the son of Charles-François Delacroix, a government official, and Victoire Oeben, a miller’s daughter. Delacroix was exposed to art at an early age through his father’s collection of paintings. He also frequently visited the Louvre Museum where he studied the works of masters such as Rubens, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
In 1815, Delacroix began his formal artistic training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was taught by Jacques Louis David, the leading French Neo-Classical artist of the time. However, Delacroix was not interested in painting in the same realistic style as David. He was much more influenced by the Romantic artists of the early 19th century, such as William Blake and Caspar David Friedrich.
In 1822, Delacroix completed his first major work, “Scene of Massacre at Chios.” The painting depicts the brutal massacre of Greek civilians by Ottoman Turkish troops. The work was highly controversial and caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the Salon, the official art exhibition of the French Academy of Arts.
Despite the criticism he received, Delacroix continued to develop his own unique style. In 1827, he traveled to Morocco where he was inspired by the vibrant colors and exotic culture. He also visited Spain in 1832, which further influenced his use of color and composition.
Delacroix’s most famous work is “Liberty Leading the People,” completed in 1830. The painting celebrates the July Revolution of that year, which toppled the Bourbon monarchy and established the French Second Republic. The figure of Liberty is based on the Roman goddess, Libertas. She is shown leading the people forward, her right hand raised in a gesture of defiance. The tricolor flag of the revolution flies behind her.
Delacroix continued to paint historical and religious subjects throughout his career. He also produced many illustrations for books and magazines. In 1863, Delacroix died of pneumonia at the age of 65. His funeral was attended by over 30,000 people, making it one of the largest public gatherings in Paris at that time.