Biography of Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)

French painter born on 26 April 1798 in Saint-Maurice, near Paris, and died on August 13, 1863. His life was spent, then, between the years of instability immediately following the revolution which put an end to the old regime and the final consolidation of the new bourgeois regime. His mother belonged to a family of famous cabinetmakers, and his father, Charles Delacroix, was a former member of the French National Convention that ended up becoming accommodated official. However, the rumours said that Eugene was son of Talleyrand, although this assumption, based no doubt on the amazing resemblance between the painter and the famous diplomat, was never confirmed or be denied altogether.

Delacroix spent his childhood between Marseille and Bordeaux, city in which his father died in 1805. His mother then returned to Paris and the future painter was able to study at the famous Imperial Lyceum. Seventeen he/she entered the Studio of Guerin and adapted relatively easily to their discipline by copying coins and antique busts at the same time he/she studied the rules of composition. In fact, dreamed of becoming a great painter of history in the manner of his admired Gros, up to this monotony came to take one of the most important events of his artistic life: the encounter with Gericault. Delacroix was deeply impressed by the raft of the Medusa, but he/she wanted to get to the great history painting precisely from the problems which, in theory, Géricault had not been able to solve, seeking one greater unit, the connection of all the forces in a unique harmony, an idea leadership that had subordinated all and each of the points and lines of shape and colornot a series of positioned elements each other nor nor a formal synthesis of Renaissance type, achieved by extreme tranquility and balance, but a river of force that dragged everything with it.

Combat between Giacour and Hassan in a ravine (oil on canvas, 1824-1826). Art Institute of Chicago.

A year after meeting Géricault, Delacroix entered the school of fine arts and there tirelessly copied pictures from history and mythological and allegorical compositions of old masters. Around the same time spent all hours that could be in the Louvre Museum studying especially painters as Rubens or those of the Venetian school, that you were interested in a particular manner.

In 1822, the same year when his health began to suffer the first pains that would turn him into a sickly of for life, presented to the Hall his first important work, the barque of Dante or Dante and Virgil crossing Hells. While it was a magnificent success, the canvas had all the qualities of the neoclassical theorists and artists had abominated: a dynamic energy, emotional intensity, an exaggerated in nude figures twisting sensuality and, above all, a striking taste for living dark colors. Because the more decisive break made it as Delacroix to colorist. The neoclassical theorists had ruled that pay more attention to the color that the line amounted to situate the transient and changeable over the eternal and insurance, to appeal to the senses rather than the mind. Delacroix was feeling increasingly more skeptical to this conception of art and the notion of a mechanically static cosmos was based. For him, the color was just life and light, and not appealed to the senses in exclusive but also, and above all, that imagination Baudelaire called Queen of the faculties which. His technique was exactly to these principles. Above all thanks to a pictorial unit so integrated that every touch of color depends on and is reflected in the other, so that instead of many separate local tones Gets a synthetic color harmony. This does not mean at all that there is an abandonment of the form or a relaxation of stable composition. There may be an important trend in that direction, but movement of the form, the color movement and the movement of the light are always willing and ordered.

In the Salon of 1824, Delacroix presented another of its most valid pictures, the massacres of Chios, already qualified then as painting massacre and openly confronted the aesthetic of Ingres ideas because it represents a radical change in how to understand and see the painting. To his contemporaries he/she was, above all, the work of a passionate temperament and, as such, it was severely judged without hiding the stupor before this sort of apotheosis of cruelty and despair. The reception was, however, enthusiastic in a restricted group of romantic and quisieralo or not the artist himself, was the apex of the entire movement.

In 1825 Delacroix spent a long time in London where was influenced by the English romantic painters and, of course, by the wildlife. Shortly after returning to Paris presented at the show, one of his most exorbitant works, the death of Sardanapalus (1827-28), but not all his subjects were to be always so contemporary. In 1831, he/she presented which is undoubtedly his most famous picture, the liberty leading the people, referring to the revolution of 1830.

In 1832 he/she undertook an expedition to Morocco that had a huge importance. In fact, he/she had a decisive influence and came to replace, for the painter, the usual trip to Rome. The count de Mornay, who was going to Morocco on official mission, proposed Delacroix to be part of the delegation as a "photojournalist". The trip lasted from January to July and the painter not only changed their way of seeing the painting, especially as far as color is concerned, but it also prepared many of them which will be his key paintings. It drew constantly foreshortenings of deserted streets, wild horses and immersed in a cool dark interiors and filled his notebook of watercolors of landscapes and costumes. His impressions and memories were born as women in Algiers in their rooms (1834), Hebrew wedding in Morocco (1837), Arab comedians (1848), Turkish bath (1854) woman and Moroccan soldiers (1858) Ford. On his return from Morocco, Delacroix made a brief stop in Spain and confirmed an influence of Spanish painting that his work had been enduring almost from the beginning. They interest you, especially Velázquez, who is mentioned in his diary in a consistent way, and among the contemporaries, Goya.

In 1844 Delacroix met the critic and poet Charles Baudelaire, author of the first and most penetrating study that has been dedicated never the painter. From this moment on and until his death, Delacroix enjoyed a series of official commissions, among which we must not forget the large frescoes entrusted him to decorate the library of the Palacio de Luxembourg (1841-46), part of the roof of the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre (1849-51), the chapel of San Sulpicio (h. 1853-61) or the Chamber of Deputies (1833-47). Throughout his career as a painter, Delacroix was able to question all the pictorial tradition in concepts such as the imitation of nature, the use of the model or the classical idea of beauty. His condition indisputably modern artist and his enormous reflective capacity led him to consider an imaginative, antirealist and with a strong expressionist character painting of that whole Romantic movement is clearly indebted.


BRYSON, b., Tradition and Desire. From David to Delacroix (Cambridge, 1984).

Exposition catalogue, Eugene Delacroix (Madrid: Museo del Prado, 1988).

DELACROIX, e., the bridge of the vision (Madrid, 1989).

FRIEDLAENDER, w., from David to Delacroix (Madrid, 1989).

HERNANDO, j., Eugene Delacroix, art collection and its creators (Historia 16: Madrid, 1993).

HUYGHE, r., Delacroix (London, 1963).

PETROVA, e., Delacroix and romantic drawing (Barcelona, 1989).

Sagrario Aznar Alamazan