Digging around on that new-fangled Internet thing for inspiration for #ArtDept, I began exploring the life and works Eugène Delacroix (1798 –1863), the great French Romantic painter and lithographer. Delacroix’s use of expressive brushstrokes and his study of the optical effects of color profoundly shaped the work of the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic inspired the new Symbolist movement.
In contrast to the Neoclassical perfectionism of other painters in his era, Delacroix took inspiration from the art of Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640) and painters of the Venetian Renaissance, and his own travels to North Africa in search of the exotic.
The gay poet Charles Baudelaire said of him:
Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible.
Delacroix is considered the last Old Masters of painting, and one of the few who was ever photographed.
In my research, I discovered the existence of a nephew of Delacroix, whose portrait had just been recently sold for $500,000 at auction in New York last fall.
The proud young man in the painting is Charles de Verninac (1803 – 1834), the only son of Delacroix’s sister Henriette de Verninac. Delacroix immortalized him during the winter of 1825-1826. After studying law in Paris, de Verninac joined the diplomatic corps in 1829 and served various missions around the globe, from Malta to Chile. On his way home to France in 1834, he contracted yellow fever; his boat was quarantined at the port of New York, where he took his last breath. The pain of his passing was immense for Delacroix who, since the death of his sister seven years earlier, had no other close relative.
Until his own death in 1863, Delacroix kept three portraits of his nephew, one of which hung above his bed.
There is a mystery about the enigmatic Delacroix’s own gayness. Very little is known about his private life, except probably an affair with composer Frédéric Chopin. In a journal entry from October 5, 1855, Delacroix writes:
I look with passion and without fatigue these photographs from naked men, this admirable poem, this human body on which I learn to read and whose sight says more than the inventions of the writers.
Delacroix’s best-known painting is probably La Liberté Guidant le Peuple (1830) an unforgettable image of Parisians, having taken up arms, marching forward under the three-colored banner representing liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Although the French government bought the painting, officials deemed its glorification of liberty too inflammatory and removed it from public view. It now lives at the Louvre museum in Paris;
The boy holding a pistol aloft on the right is sometimes thought to be an inspiration for the character Gavroche in Victor Hugo‘s Les Misérables (1862).