Eugène Delacroix - Leader of Romanticism

Gilles Farina
Publié le 17 February 2023
Eugène Delacroix - Leader of Romanticism

He is considered the leader of Romanticism, he paved the way for Modern Art and thinks that "Painting is nagging him". He is Eugène Delacroix, the artist who revolutionised painting three times in his life. Museum TV looks back at this painter who liked to shake up the codes.

Living for painting

Eugène Delacroix was born in 1798 in a particular historical context: the French Revolution. At the age of 16, he devoted himself to painting and became a pupil of Théodore Géricault. He was also a model in the masterpiece The Raft of the Medusa. However, the artist struggled to make a living from his passion.

The Raft of the Medusa, Théodore Géricault (1818-1819)

He then began to participate in the Salon. On 24 April 1822, he shook up the art world for the first time by presenting his painting "Dante and Virgil in the Underworld". It was a revelation for Eugène Delacroix: whether or not people liked his painting, the public remembered his name. Adolphe Thiers, an art critic at the time, even said that he saw in it "the boldness of Michelangelo and the fertility of Rubens". The State nevertheless bought the work from him for 2,000 francs.

Dante and Virgil in Hell, also known as The Barque of Dante, Eugène Delacroix (1822)

Two years later, at the age of 26, he was again in the news. Another subversive theme was brought to the fore: the death of Sardanapalus. The story of a king who orders the massacre of his wives and horses and the destruction of his wealth. But more than the theme, it is the style that shocks. This painting represents a turning point in the history of art. From now on, rhythm, curves, movement and dissonance are required.

The Death of Sardanapalus

In 1831, the third act of this pictorial revolution took place. Delacroix painted his most famous picture today. A national monument, an allegory of freedom that will deeply scandalize. Two centuries later, "Liberty Guiding the People" is deeply inscribed in the French collective unconscious.

Liberty Leading the People

To find all our programmes dedicated to Eugène Delacroix, including our special evening on 21 February, go to our streaming platform.