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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863) was an artist regarded as the leader of the French Romantic school. Delacroix’s use of expressive brushstrokes shaped the work of the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic inspired the artists of the Symbolist movement. Dramatic and romantic content characterised the central themes which led him to travel in North Africa, in search of the exotic.

A Tour of Eugène Delacroix’s Art

  • The Massacre at Chios
    • “The Massacre at Chios” by Eugène Delacroix is a massive painting showing the horror and destruction visited on the Island of Chios. A display of suffering, military might, ornate costumes, terror, and death in a scene of widespread desolation. There is no heroic figure to counterbalance the massacre and the hopelessness of the victims, and there is no suggestion of hope among the ruin and despair.The painting reflects the reality of the Chios massacre and represents the killing of twenty thousand citizens, and the forced deportation into slavery for almost all the surviving seventy thousand inhabitants by Ottoman troops during the Greek War of Independence in 1822. Ottoman soldiers were ordered to kill all infants under three years old, all men 12 years and older, and all women 40 and older, except those willing to convert to Islam. The wholesale massacre provoked international outrage and led to increasing international support for the Greek cause for Independence. Museum: The Louvre
  • The Death of Sardanapalus(Philadelphia Museum of Art)
    • “The Death of Sardanapalus” by Eugène Delacroix depicts the tale of Sardanapalus, a king of Assyria, who according to an ancient story, exceeded all previous rulers in sloth and decadence. He spent his whole life in self-indulgence, and when he wrote his epitaph, he stated that physical gratification is the only purpose of life. His debauchery caused dissatisfaction within the Assyrian empire, allowing conspiracies against him to develop. Sardanapalus failed to defeat the rebels, and then enemies of the empire join the battle against him. When Sardanapalus’ last defences collapsed and to avoid falling into the hands of his enemies, Sardanapalus ordered a huge funeral pyre on which were piled all his gold and valuables and ordered that his eunuchs and concubines be boxed in inside the pyre, to burn them and himself to death. The king’s act of destroying his valued possessions, including people and goods, in a funerary pyre, demonstrates his final depravity. Museum: Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • The Death of Sardanapalus (Louvre Museum)
    • Delacroix’s composition is centred on a large bed draped in rich red fabrics golden and with elephant head sculptures at the base of the bed. On the bed lies Sardanapalus with a look of contempt, overseeing the chaos. He is dressed in flowing white fabrics and with elaborate gold around his neck and head. Also, each of the King’s pampered toes has a jewelled toe ring on it. One woman lies dead at his feet, and five other women are in various stages of undress, and in the process of being stabbed with knives by the King’s men. One man is also attempting to kill the King’s favourite horse, while two young men by the king’s right elbow are attending to the King’s command with an elegant golden decanter and a cup. The king’s room is full of treasure and just outside can be seen the funeral pyre being fired up in preparation for the cremation of the King and all his riches, favourite women, men and horse. Museum: Louvre Museum
  • Liberty Leading the People
    • “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugène Delacroix commemorates the July Revolution of 1830 in France. A woman wearing the Phrygian cap of liberty, personifying the concept of Liberty leads the people forward over a barricade and the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution in one hand and a bayonetted musket with the other. Delacroix depicted Liberty as both an allegorical goddess-figure and a woman of the people. The corpses at her feet, act as a pedestal, from which Liberty strides, barefoot and bare-breasted. This painting is seen as a marker to the end of the Age of Enlightenment and the start of the Romantic Era. The fighters depicted as following Liberty, represent the range of French society from the bourgeoisie represented by the man in a top hat, a student from a prestigious Paris school wearing the traditional bicorne and the revolutionary urban worker, in the form of the boy holding pistols. They all have a fierceness and determination in their eyes. In the background is the city of Paris with a Tricolore flag that can be seen in the distance on the towers of Notre Dame on the right. Museum: Louvre Museum

Eugène Delacroix

A Tour of Artists and their Art

Quotes by Eugène Delacroix

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“What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.”

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“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.”

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“Men of genius are made not by new ideas, but by an idea which possesses them, namely, that what has been said has not yet been sufficiently said.”

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“Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.”

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“Nature creates unity even in the parts of a whole.”

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“The source of genius is imagination alone, . . . the refinement of the senses that sees what others do not see, or sees them differently.”

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“Each of the beings necessary to our existence who disappears takes away with him a whole world of feelings that no other relationship can revive.”

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“Do all the work you can; that is the whole philosophy of a good way of life.”

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“Draftsmen may be made, but colourists are born.”

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“A taste for simplicity cannot endure for long.”

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“Nature is a dictionary; one draws words from it.”

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“When all is said, and done scholars can do no more than find in nature what is already there.”

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“If one considered life as a simple loan, one would perhaps be less exacting. We possess nothing; everything goes through us.”

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“Of which beauty will you speak? There are many: there are a thousand: there is one for every look, for every spirit, adapted to each taste, to each particular constitution.”

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“Experience has two things to teach. The first is that we must correct a great deal and the second, that we must not correct too much.”

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“What makes men of genius, or rather, what they make, is not new ideas, it is that idea – possessing them – that what has been said has still not been said enough.”

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“What drives men of genius is their obsession with the idea that what has already been done is not good enough.”

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“The Natural History Museum is open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays. Elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus; extraordinary animals! Rubens rendered them marvellously. I had a feeling of happiness as soon as I entered the place, and the further I went, the stronger it grew. I felt my whole being rise above commonplaces and trivialities and the petty worries of my daily life. What an immense variety of animals and species of different shapes and functions!”

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Reflections

  • “The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.” – Eugène Delacroix

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“Do all the work you can; that is the whole philosophy of a good way of life.”
– Eugène Delacroix

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Photo Credit 1)Thales Fielding [Public domain]

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