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Eugène Delacroix (1798 - 1863)

Lifespan: 1798 - 1863

Related: French art - Romanticism - modern art

Death of Sardanapalus (1827) - Eugène Delacroix

Contemporaries: Lord Byron - Arthur Schopenhauer - Théodore Géricault - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Baudelaire worshipped the [Delacroix] as a dark god: "Delacroix, lake of blood, haunted by evil angels," he called him. Delacroix didn't agree with everything Baudelaire wrote about him. He was baffled when the poet, who also translated Edgar Allan Poe's horror stories, compared his favourite painter to his favourite writer. [...] Poe was an alcoholic who married his child cousin and was found dying in the streets of Baltimore. Delacroix was not a bohemian. But his imagination was the source of all modern art's depravity. --Jonathan Jones via http://arts.guardian.co.uk/portrait/story/0,,740389,00.html [May 2006]

Baudelaire on Delacroix as the originator of modern art: "The majority of the public have long since, indeed from his very first work, dubbed him leader of the modern school." --Charles Baudelaire.

It is from Delacroix that the line of progressive modernism extends directly to Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet. In the conservative view, Delacroix's Romanticism, Courbet's Realism, and Manet's Naturalism were all manifestations of the cult of ugliness that opposed the Academic ideal of the beautiful. Delacroix, Courbet, and Manet, were each in turn accused by conservatives of carrying on subversive work that was intended to undermine the State. --Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe via http://www.arthistory.sbc.edu/artartists/modernism.html [May 2006]

Not without reason was Delacroix the object of a veritable cult on the part of Maurice Barrés. "Du sang, de la volupté, de la mort" might well be the motto of his work." --The Romantic Agony

George Sand (1838) - Eugène Delacroix


Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix (April 26, 1798 - August 13, 1863) was an important painter from the French romantic period.

Delacroix's developing technique would prove to be an important influence on others. His use of expressive color profoundly shaped the work of the Impressionist movement. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%E8ne_Delacroix [Jun 2005]

The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) - Eugène Delacroix

In search of the origins of modern art.

Modern art began in France. That much is indisputable. But when, and with whom? Many founding images and artists are plausible; you could begin the history of modernism with Manet's Olympia (1863), or Courbet's Burial at Ornans (1849-50), or even David's Marat Assassinated (1793). But 19th-century Parisians would not have agreed with any of these claims.

For them, the founder of the new art was unquestionably Eugène Delacroix. "The majority of the public," wrote Charles Baudelaire, poet, provoker of public morals and art critic, "have long since, indeed from his very first work, dubbed him leader of the modern school." --Jonathan Jones via http://arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,11710,880200,00.html [May 2006]

Death of Sardanapalus (La Mort de Sardanapale) is a painting dated at 1827 by Eugène Delacroix. Its dominant feature is the bed on which a nude prostrates herself and beseeches the apathetic Sardanapalus, who watches as his worldly possessions are destroyed. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Sardanapalus [May 2006]

Delacroix's painting of the death scene of the Assyrian king Sardanapalus shows a romantic scene alive with beautiful colours, exotic costumes and tragic events. The Death of Sardanapalus is the story of a king who was besieged, and who ordered his guards to kill his servants, wives and animals. His attitude in the painting was; If he was going to be killed, he was going to take them with him. The scene at the front with the nude woman about to get her throat cut is both extremely shocking and powerful. In the painting, the figure of Sardanapalus sits at the back watching the events taking place and he is somewhat distant from the rest of the figures. In this way he is seen to have a somewhat individualist nature as distinct from the rest of the group.

In fact, there was an individualistic spirit amongst Romantic painters in this period in Europe. The painting, which was not exhibited again for many years later, has been regarded by critics almost as a sick gruesome fantasy involving death and lust. However the simple beauty and exotic colours of the piece take away some of this aspect, and make the picture appear pleasing and shocking at the same time. In a sense the exotic sex of the piece take away the violence of it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Delacroix [May 2006]

Based on Byron
Delacroix submitted this portrait to the Salon exhibition of 1827; it was rejected. He later repainted parts of it. This was a time when he was particularly interested in dandyism, in the figure of the artist as at once active and passive, enthusiastic and bored, heroic and anti-heroic. In other words he had been reading Byron.

Delacroix shared Byron's fascination with the Greek war of independence. After Byron died at Missolonghi in 1824 and the town's defenders committed mass suicide, Delacroix painted Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1827). At the same Salon of 1827, he exhibited The Death of Sardanapalus, based on Byron's verse play [1821], the depraved iconography owing more to the popular image of Byron as vampiric aesthete than to the actual content. --Jonathan Jones via http://arts.guardian.co.uk/portrait/story/0,,740389,00.html [May 2006]

See also: 1820s - 1827 - Lord Byron - Eugène Delacroix - Paris - French art - modern art

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