Eugène Delacroix Biography
Born in 1789 in Paris, French Romantic painter Eugéne Delacroix received his early training from Pierre Guérin in a classicist vein. While that approach would have little effect on Delacroix’s ultimate artistic development, it was through this connection that he met the painter Théodore Gericault, creator of the masterwork Raft of the Medusa, 1818–19, a work for which Delacroix posed. Ultimately, Delacroix drew most of his inspiration from the plethora of art available for him to study at the Louvre. He was also exposed to a wide of array of literature, including the writing of Shakespeare, Byron, and Scott. It was those literary sources that would ultimately be the catalyst to Delacroix’s full embrace of Romanticism, despite the growing popularity of Neoclassicism.
Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People of 1830 illustrates the divergence between his Romantic inspiration and the Neoclassical tradition. In it, a bare-breasted woman carries a gun in her left hand, brandishes the tricolor French flag in her right, and looks back at a mob of people who appear to be from various social classes; the skyline of Paris is barely visible in the background, obscured by haze and smoke. Inspired by the 1830 revolt against King Charles X, the painting’s subject matter and its emotional realism put it directly at odds with the austerity and clean aesthetics of Neoclassicism. Initially considered inflammatory by the French government, Liberty Leading the People was removed from view, but following the Revolution of 1848 it was put back on display at the Louvre, where it still resides today. Although the majority of Delacroix’s works are held by museums in France, the Louvre having the largest collection of his works, some of the grandest collections in the world have acquired a number of his paintings, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.