Professor Lee Johnson dates Tiger on the lookout circa 1852 ; Robaut rather dates it circa 1848. It is possible that Delacroix painted the composition right before the 1852 exhibition in Marseille.
Beasts have always been one of Delacroix's themes of predilection, either isolated or staged in a momentum. Several anatomical studies of felines by Delacroix are known from his early years. Certainly inspired by his close friend, sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye, he would visit the Ménagerie of the Natural History Museum, Paris, the fair of Saint-Cloud, and other places where wild animals were shown to the public. His first works on animals were lithographs - which rarely ended in paintings, except Young Tiger playing with his mother, exhibited at the 1831 Salon and kept at the Louvre museum, Paris, and Young lioness walking, 1832, kept at the Ny Carslberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
In 1832, Delacroix travels to Morocco. The landscapes and animals he discovers are endless sources of inspiration for his future works.
From 1840 and on, the specific theme of a feline in a landscape, in action or resting, gains autonomy and a true dimension in Delacroix's œuvre. Certainly influenced by Rubens whom he copies right from the beginning of his carreer and perhaps influenced by Barye's magnificent animal sculptures, he would soon focus on rendering the beasts' attitudes with precision, painting their robe and integrating the animal in an elaborate landscape. After 1847-48, the works on the subject multiply and become, both by their quality and quantity, a "true obsession" (as Vincent Pomarède states, op. cit. pp. 77-78). In 1847, a tiger arrives at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris which explains the subject is more and more present in Delacroix's oeuvre, quite homogeneously, and yet in various manners : preying, ready to bounce, resting or asleep, couples, beasts attacking another animal (horse, snake, other beast), or humans. To capture the animals' specificity, beauty, power, cruelty, and grace, Delacroix simplifies his compositions and erases details, so the animal is integrated in the landscape with a vibrant, light touch and colors, thus creating unity and harmony.
Several paintings are comparable to Tiger on the lookout, by their composition, colors or format : Tiger drinking, kept at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut (circa 1853 ; cf. Lee Johnson n° 191 ; see fig. 2), or Tiger frightened by a snake, kept at the Kunsthalle, Hambourg (circa 1854 ; cf. Lee Johnson n° 196 ; see fig. 1).
We would like to thank the Comité Eugène Delacroix for kindly confirming the authenticity of this work in a certificate-letter dated May 3rd 2017. The certificate will be delivered to the buyer.
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