Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Delacroix, Eugene

Bouquet of Flowers
Watercolour, gouache and pastel on paper
65 x 64 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Delacroix painted flower paintings and landscapes in his later years. He took time off from his exhausting monumental labours to paint the flowers in the garden of his friend George Sand.

 "Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible." (Baudelaire)

Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix (1798 - 1863) was the most important of the French Romantic painters. He was the son of a politician, C. Delacroix, but there is some evidence to indicate that his real father was the diplomat Talleyrand, a friend of the family. His mother came of a family of notable craftsmen and designers.

His basic artistic education was obtained by copying Old Masters at the Louvre, where he delighted in Rubens and the Venetian School. In the Salon of 1822 he had his first public success with The Barque of Dante (Louvre). It was bought by the State (with Talleyrand perhaps pulling strings in the background), as was The Massacre at Chios (Louvre) two years later, ensuring the success of his career.
From the late 1830s his style and technique underwent a change. In place of luminous glazes and contrasted values he began to use a personal technique of vibrating adjacent tones and divisionist color effects in a manner of which Watteau had been a master, making color enter into the structure of the picture to an extent which had not previously been attempted. In spite of being hailed as the leader of the Romantic movement, his predilection for exotic and emotionally charged subject-matter, and his open enmity with Ingres, Delacroix always claimed allegiance to the classical tradition, and for his large works followed the traditional course of making numerous preparatory drawings. He was inspired by Byron, with whom he shared a strong identification with the "forces of the sublime", of nature in often violent action.

In his later career he became one of the most distinguished monumental mural painters in the history of French art. Baudelaire said of him that he was the only artist who 'in our faithless generation conceived religious pictures' and van Gogh wrote, 'only Rembrandt and Delacroix could paint the face of Christ.'

Delacroix's output was enormous. After his death his executors found more than 9,000 paintings, pastels, and drawings in his studio and he prided himself on the speed at which he worked, declaring 'If you are not skillful enough to sketch a man falling out of a window during the time it takes him to get from the fifth story to the ground, then you will never be able to produce monumental work.' Among great painters he was also one of the finest writers on art. He was a voluminous letter writer and kept a journal from 1822 to 1824 and again from 1847 until his death - a marvelously rich source of information and opinion on his life and times. His influence, particularly through his use of color, was prodigious, inspiring Renoir, Seurat, and van Gogh among others. Delacroix's studio in Paris is now a museum devoted to his life and work, but the Louvre has the finest collection of his paintings.