Eugene Delacroix

Delacroix, Eugène

Eugène Delacroix (Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix) (fĕrdēnäN´-vēktôr´-özhĕn´ dəläkrwä´), 1798–1863, French painter. Delacroix is considered the foremost painter of the romantic movement in France; his influence as a colorist is inestimably great.

He studied in Guérin's studio with Géricault, who became a major influence on his work. Delacroix enriched his neoclassical training with acute attention to the works of Rubens, Michelangelo, Veronese, and the Venetian school, and later Constable, Bonington, and the English watercolorists. When his first major work, The Bark of Dante (Louvre), had been exhibited in the Salon in 1822 and purchased by the government, he was, to his own surprise, recognized as the leader of the opposition to the neoclassical school of David. In temperament and choice of subjects he was a romantic, as revealed by his dramatic interpretation of scenes from mythology, literature, and political, religious, and literary history.

In 1824 Delacroix painted much of his Massacre at Chios (Louvre). The violence of the subject matter and ravishing color of this work and of The Death of Sardanapalus (1827; Louvre) were heavily condemned by some critics. In England in 1825 he spent several months absorbing English painting and making numerous studies of horses. As a tribute to Byron and the Greek War of Independence he painted Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1827; Bordeaux).

The four months Delacroix spent in Morocco in 1832 provided him with visual material that he drew upon for the rest of his life. There he filled seven fat notebooks with brilliant watercolor sketches and notes. His continuing fascination with the exotic was revealed by Women of Algiers (1834; Louvre) and The Jewish Wedding (1839; Louvre). His powerful Entrance of the Crusaders into Constantinople (1841; Louvre) is a compelling, epic work of history painting.

Delacroix's other major sources were the works and lives of major literary figures. In 1820 he made 17 bizarre and exciting lithographs for Goethe's Faust. He used Shakespeare often in several media (e.g., Hamlet and Horatio in the Graveyard, 1839; Louvre). He was also inspired by turbulent scenes from the plays and poems of Byron (e.g., Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha, 1827; Art Inst. of Chicago), from the novels of Scott, and from a number of other literary works. He also created many strong paintings on religious themes.

Delacroix's Self-Portrait (1835–37; Louvre) reveals a thin, dynamic, yet reserved countenance. He also portrayed many notable contemporaries, including Paganini (1832; Phillips Coll., Washington, D.C.) and, in 1838, his close friends Chopin (Louvre) and George Sand (Copenhagen). Of his animals in motion, the watercolor Tiger Attacking a Horse (1825–28; Louvre) and The Lion Hunt (1861; Art Inst. of Chicago) are characteristic. During the last three decades of his life he secured numerous public commissions. His decorations in the Palais Bourbon (1833–47; Paris), the Palais de Luxembourg (1841–46), and the Church of Saint-Sulpice (1853–61) are examples of his genius as a muralist. His work is best represented in the Louvre.


Delacroix's enormous involvement in contemporary artistic and intellectual life is recorded in his journal, kept from 1823 to 1854 (tr. by W. Pach, 1937, repr. 1972; selections tr., 1980, 1995).

See also his selected letters, 1813–63, ed. by J. Stewart (1971); T. Wilson-Smith, Delacroix, A Life (1992); E. Davies, Portrait of Delacroix (1994); J. Lindsay, Death of the Hero (1960); The Restless Eye (video, 1980); L. Johnson, The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: A Critical Catalogue (1981–86) and Delacroix Pastels (1995); study by F. Trapp (1988); N. M. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Eugène Delacroix: Prints, Politics and Satire (1991); M. Hannoosh, Painting and the Journal of Eugène Delacroix (1995).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Eugene Delacroix: Selected full-text books and articles

Delacroix By Lee Johnson W. W. Norton, 1963
Eugène Delacroix, Further Correspondence, 1817-1863 By Eugène Delacroix; Lee K. Johnson Oxford University Press, 1991
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
The Mirror of Art, Critical Studies By Charles Baudelaire; Jonathan Mayne Phaidon Publishers, 1955
Librarian's tip: "Eugene Delacroix" begins on p. 52 and "The Life and Work Of Eugene Delacroix" begins on p. 301
Baudelaire and the Art of Memory By J. A. Hiddleston Clarendon Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "Delacroix"
FREE! The History of Modern Painting By Richard Muther J.M. Dent, vol.1, 1907 (Revised edition)
Delacroix, Chenavard, and the End of History By O'Brien, David Journal of Art Historiography, No. 9, December 2013
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Delacroix and Sculpture By Hannoosh, Michele Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Vol. 35, No. 1, Fall 2006
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Romanticism By Pierre Courthion Skira, 1961
Delacroix Reconsidered By Kimball, Roger New Criterion, Vol. 17, No. 1, September 1998
Looking at Pictures By Kenneth Clark Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1960
Librarian's tip: "Delacroix: The Crusaders Entering Constantinople" begins on p. 55
The Process of Art: Essays on Nineteenth-Century French Literature, Music, and Painting in Honour of Alain Raitt By Mike Freeman; Elizabeth Fallaize; Jill Forbes; Toby Garfitt; Roger Pearson; Janis Spurlock Clarendon Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: "In the Mind's Eye: The Meanings of Liberty Guiding the People" begins on p. 11
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