Wednesday, March 21, 2012

E is for Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix? Yes! This is my "E" post for Blogging Through the Alphabet with Ben and Me!

His full name is Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, and he was a French Romantic artist born April of 1798. He looks pretty serious and a little severe here, don't you think?

The warmth and vitality you find in his paintings are definitely not reflected here in this photograph of him. I think this self-portrait is much more friendly.

I think he looks a little dashing here--in a 19th century sort of way, of course. ;)

If you are a follower of Ambleside Online's art schedule, you may already be familiar with him as he was the Term 3 artist for last year's schedule, but I skipped him. His paintings are interesting to me because he painted many scenes from the Middle East and that is pretty unusual for this time period. 

In 1832, Delacroix traveled to Spain and North Africa, as part of a diplomatic mission to Morocco shortly after the French conquered Algeria. He went not primarily to study art, but to escape from the civilization of Paris, in hopes of seeing a more primitive culture. 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. He believed that the North Africans, in their attire and their attitudes, provided a visual equivalent to the people of Classical Rome and Greece:

"The Greeks and Romans are here at my door, in the Arabs who wrap themselves in a white blanket and look like Cato or Brutus…"

Here is his Sultan of Morocco. Pay attention to the eyes. I love them. The horse matches the master!

(Click to enlarge all the paintings below.)

There are many versions of the painting below entitle, The Lion Hunt, as he must have had a fascination for it. I like the colors and the movement in this one. Even the trees seem to be moving with the violence of the hunters.

Here is a second one that I like less, but it has a lot of similarities. There is still a great deal of mayhem going on in this one! The people are less clear and the sky is prominent in the background. Which one do you like best?

Arab Horses Fighting in a Stable is a beautiful representation of two strong horses and what happens when their strength becomes dangerous for the human "controlling" them. I love the look of the horses here--their majesty is fully displayed. What do you think of it?

For you Shakespeare fans, Delacroix painted some of his works too. This is one I particularly like. It is called Hamlet with Horatio, (the gravedigger scene).

I am partial to the sky in paintings (and in real life--I love the clouds). Sky scenes are often so telling. Backgrounds of painting are fascinating to me too as sometimes artists put much of themselves into the background. It is worth noting.

Here I veer from showcasing his wilder works, and share a few of his softer lovelier works. This is so different from the other paintings that is doesn't seem that it could be painted by Delacroix. This is called A Vase of Flowers on a Console.

I love the lush background here with the fabric and gold frame on the right. It is obviously from a very wealthy home as flowers like this would have cost quite a bit! I love the flowers though and think they are just lovely. His use of light is beautiful here.

I really like this last one. It is called Orphan Girl at the Cemetery.

Look at her eyes. Don't you wonder what she is looking at? She is lovely I think, but clearly poor. It is a truly fascinating painting to me. I would love to know who she was. This is the Wiki info on this:

Believed to be a preparatory work in oil for the artist's later Massacre at Chios, Orphan Girl at the Cemetery is nevertheless considered a masterpiece in its own right. An air of sorrow and fearfulness emanates from the picture, and tears well from the eyes of the grief-stricken girl as she looks apprehensively upward. The background depicts her melancholy; in the dimness of the sky and the abandoned laying-ground. The girl's body language and clothing evoke tragedy and vulnerability: the dress drooping down from her shoulder, a hand laid weakly on her thigh, the shadows above the nape of her neck, the darkness at her left side, and the cold and pale coloring of her attire. All these are combined to emphasize a sense of loss, of unreachable hope, her isolation, and the absence of any means of help, as she is also looking on toward an unseen and unknown spectacle or spectre.

For Delacroix, colors were the most important ingredients for his paintings. Because of this artistic taste and belief, he did not have the patience to create facsimiles of classical statues. He revered Peter Paul Rubens and the Venetians. He chose the use of colorful hues and exotic themes for his paintings, drawing inspiration from other inspirational places, resulting in works described as glossy and abundant with movement.

Not only did he paint, but he also illustrated several books. Sir Walter Scott, Shakespeare, and Goethe are among them. Here are some of his lithographs.

This last bit of information was too good to leave out. As I was looking at his artwork I could not miss the way some of it felt a little Impressionistic to me. Now I understand why. He was a forerunner and set the stage for them. I found the following here.

In the history of art Delacroix is relevant because of the example he set for the impressionists. He used a rough but swinging brushstroke, experimented with colours and light and sometimes neglected proper use of perspective: all typical elements of the impressionist style. Some see him as the link between the classic style of the old masters and the modern movements that arose in the 19th century.

Eugène Delacroix died in 1863 and was buried at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. He created over 850 oil paintings and more than 2000 drawings and watercolours. Among his works were many with a religious subject, tempting some to consider this worldly Parisian the most important religious artist of the 19th century.

Enjoy these paintings! 

May God be the center of your week.


Charlotte said...

These were beautiful. I loved his display of motion, from the fabric rippling and trees swaying...he really captured the mystery of the east. I also liked his use of light in the Vase of Flowers. But my favorite is the Orphan Girl. You just want to stare at that painting, wanting to know about her, and what she is looking at.

Thanks for sharing this, Kate!

Kate said...

I wonder, Charlotte, if she is real. I have to think she was because the expression is so realistic. It moves me too. :)


Jenn said...

Wow! I had never heard of him. I bookmarked the Art Schedule a while back after you linked to it but have never made an effort to implement it. I really need to do that.

Kym said...

Very interesting! I especially like the Vase of Flowers, which is not usually the type of painting I'd be drawn to. It's fascinating to imagine the stories behind some of the unknown subjects like the Orphan Girl.