Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, hailed as the ‘Father of Romanticism’, is also recognized as one of the most distinguished monumental mural painters in the history of French art.
Eugène Delacroix was born in Charenton-St.Maurice, near Paris, France on April 26, 1798. While he was the son of a politician, he possessed a natural gift for music and the arts inherited from his mother’s side of the family. His standard classical education came at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris.
Losing his father at a young age cast a blanket of sorrow upon his family. Hard times would further test his ability to endure when he lost his mother at sixteen and became an orphan. He set his path and would not be deterred from his pursuit of a career in the Arts. Producing lithographs and caricatures during tough times allowed him to continue painting as well as make ends meet.
In 1815, Delacroix attended the school of Fine Arts in Paris and studied under neoclassical painter Pierre Narcisse Guérin. His early interest in art included the English landscape artists and portraitists, and he held special regard toward William Hogarth.
Before long, Delacroix had created one of his first works titled ‘Roman Matrons Sacrificing their Jewelry to their Country’. It was received with a frenzy of debate. His debut at the 1821 Salon where he displayed ‘Dante and Virgil’ was also met with both excitement and controversy. Nonetheless, it was purchased by the French government. The conservative classicists condemned his work for its contempt of traditions. Delacroix gained notoriety and remained steadfast in his vision. The artist was quoted as saying “Talent does whatever it wants to do.... Genius does only what it can.”
His first period ended in 1830 with ‘Liberty Leading the People’, a work that represents the spirit of the revolt. The failure of the Revolution of 1830 inspired his travels through Spain and Morocco where he worked hard to portray the Southern light and color in his exotic paintings of that time. An era was dawning, nineteenth-century romanticism had begun in France, and Eugène Delacroix was at the forefront of the Romantic School.
The life and customs of the Arabs fascinated Delacroix and inspired many of his paintings. It was during this quarter of a century of his career that he produced works of art with medieval and Arabian themes that would become his trademark. ‘Lion Hunt’ is an example of the imaginative vision and rich coloring he used in his portrayal of turban clad men on horses chasing lions into the desert. Flowing colors along with incredible fluid brushstrokes created a world on canvas that sprung to life.
Between 1838 and 1844, Delacroix decorated the library of the Chambre des Deputes and the Chambre des Pairs in the Palais du Luxembourg, as well as the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament at Saint-Denis. He continued to exhibit at the Salon such works as ‘The Shipwreck of Don Juan’, ‘Medea about to Kill Her Children’, and ‘The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople’.
In 1850, Delacroix was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre which he entitled ‘Apollo Slays Python’. His last exhibition of forty-eight works took place in 1855 at the Universal Exposition in Paris where he was accredited a member of the Academy.
With ailing health, Eugène Delacroix still had the passion to create, and up until his death on August 13, 1863, he sketched, always inspired. After his death, more than 9,000 paintings, pastels, and drawings were found in his studio which became a museum devoted to his life’s work.