This week on the Prodibi Pixel Magazine, we focus on a French painter who is widely regarded as the leader of the Romantic movement in 19th-century French art: Eugène Delacroix.
Eugène Delacroix is best known for his painterly brushwork and brilliant palettes that embodied his concern for emotion, exoticism, and the sublime. "The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing," said Delacroix. Does it apply to your photographer activity too?
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About the artist
Eugène Delacroix was born on 26 April 1798 near Paris and began his training to become a painter in 1815. Born under Napoleon's regime, Delacroix's early life was filled with loss including the death of his father, brother, and mother who passed away in 1814 when he was just sixteen.
Delacroix displayed an interest in art from an early age and at eighteen enrolled in the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Delacroix received his first commission in 1819 for the church of Orcement in France, for which he created The Virgin of the Harvest. His first major painting The Barque of Dante, inspired by Géricault's The Raft of the Medusa, was rapidly purchased by the French State despite being mocked by the public.
It is around the same time that Delacroix developed his first bout of tubercular laryngitis that would plague him throughout his life. In an attempt to prevent the illness from recurring he wore a scarf tied around his neck which, while functional, also helped to establish his reputation as a fashionable man.
Delacroix's most influential work came in 1830 with the painting Liberty Leading the People, an unforgettable image of Parisians, having taken up arms, marching forward under the banner of the tricolor representing liberty, equality, and fraternity. The choice of subject and technique highlights the differences between the romantic approach and the neoclassical style.
His depiction of suffering was controversial, however, as there was no glorious event taking place, only disasters and despairs.
As part of the Romantic movement, his approach to subject matter, the dramatic poses of his figures, his emphasis on expression and emotion, his exploration of natural light in his outdoor landscapes, and his dramatic use of color laid the foundation for the work of the first modern artists, most notably the Impressionists and later Symbolists.
Delacroix produced several painting in support of the Greeks in their war for independence against the Turks, a contemporary event. He also later on traveled to Spain and North Africa, as part of a diplomatic mission to Morocco shortly after the French conquered Algeria.
He eventually produced over 100 paintings and drawings of scenes from or based on the life of the people of North Africa, and added a new and personal chapter to the interest in Orientalism.
Delacroix was entranced by the people and the costumes, and the trip would inform the subject matter of a great many of his future paintings.
Many artists spoke repeatedly of Delacroix's influence and often created paintings inspired by his most famous works sometimes even directly giving the artist credit. For instance, Pierre-Auguste Renoir's The Jewish Wedding in Morocco (after Delacroix) (1875); Vincent van Gogh's Pieta (after Delacroix) (1889); and Paul Cézanne's Apotheosis of Delacroix (1890-94).
The influence of Delacroix continued into the 20th century, as seen in Pablo Picasso's The Women of Algiers, after Delacroix in 1955. Picasso spoke admiringly of Delacroix for his enormous influence on modern art, and famously stated, "That bastard, he's really good."
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