Eugene Delacroix

Portrait of Eugene Delacroix

Eugene Delacroix was a French artist and regarded as the leader of the French Romantic School of painting. He was born in St Maurice on 26th April 1798 and died in Paris on 13th August 1863 aged 65. 

Major Works

“The Barque of Dante” (1822)
“Death of Sardanapalus” (1828)
“Liberty Leading the People” (1830)
“Women of Algiers in their Apartment” (1834)
“Medea about to Kill Her Children” (1838)

Biography Timeline

Eugène Delacroix was born on 26th April 1798 at Charenton-Saint-Maurice in the Ile de France near Paris. It is believed that Delacroix’s father Charles-Francois, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs was infertile at the time and his real father was the diplomat Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord who was a friend of the family and succeeded Charles as Minister. His mother was Victoire Oeben, the daughter of a cabinetmaker. Delacroix was protected and given commissions by both Talleyrand and his family throughout his career. He was educated at the Lycee Louis-le-Grand and later at the Lycee Pierre Corneille in Rouen.

1805: His legitimate father, Charles Delacroix dies.

1807: Henri, one of his older brothers, is killed at the Battle of Friedland on 14th June.

1814: His mother dies leaving the sixteen-year-old an orphan. 

1815: He begins his art his training with Pierre-Narcisse Guérin who works in the neoclassical style of Jacques-Louis David.

1819: The church commissions one of his earliest paintings “The Virgin of the Harvest”.

1821: He paints The Virgin of the Sacred Heart”.

1822: Géricault’s “Raft of the Medusa” has a great impact on Delacroix and inspires his first major painting, “The Barque of Dante”, which is accepted by the Paris Salon. The work causes a sensation and is pilloried by critics and officials but loved by the public. It is purchased by the French state for the Luxembourg Galleries in Paris.

1824: His “Massacre at Chios”, showing dying Greek civilians at the hands of the Turks, is also popular and Delacroix is recognised as a leading painter in the new Romantic style, and the picture is again bought by the state.

1825: He supports himself by producing lithographs illustrating Shakespeare plays and episodes from Goethe’s Faust. Delacroix produces another large work in support of the Greek War of Independence called “Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi”. He was a great admirer of Lord Byron who had died there a year earlier. He visits England and meets Thomas Lawrence and Richard Bonington.

1826: He completes “The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan”. Seeing English painting the previous year inspired him to paint his only full-length portrait, of Auguste Schwiter, which he finally completes in 1830.

1827: He paints “Woman with Parrot”.

1828: He completes one of his more famous works “The Death of Sardanapalus”, about the death of the Assyrian King, which is loosely based on Byron’s play of the same theme.

1829: He paints “The Murder of the Bishop of Liège” this time inspired by a work by Walter Scott about the murder of Louis de Bourbon during the Middle Ages.

1830: He paints probably his most famous work of all “Liberty Leading the People”. The French government buy the painting but officials deem the glorification of liberty too politically inflammatory due to the revolution against King Charles the Tenth and remove it from public view. However, he still receives government commissions for murals and ceilings.

1832: He travels widely in Spain and North Africa shortly after the French conquer Algeria, as part of a diplomatic mission to Morocco with the diplomat Charles-Edgar de Mornay. He begins to paint the first of more than one hundred paintings on the life he saw and sketched in North Africa.

1833: He begins work on decorating the Salon du Roi in the Chambre des Députés, in the Palais Bourbon, which is not completed until 1837.

1834: Delacroix’s painting “Women of Algiers in their Apartment” is rare showing Muslim women as they normally refused to be painted due to religious rules. Jeanne-Marie le Guillou becomes his housekeeper in Paris who guards his privacy and looks after him until his death.

1837: “Jewish Wedding in Morocco” is painted as well as his only known self-portrait.

1838: He exhibits “Medea about to Kill Her Children” at the Salon and it causes a sensation due to its graphic nature of Medea about to stab them as vengeance for her abandonment by Jason. Delacroix meets Frederic Chopin and they become lasting friends. The painter said that music was one of his most important inspirations for his work.

1843: He creates a large Pietà for the Church of St. Denis du Saint Sacrement.

1844: Besides his home in Paris, he also now lives in a cottage at Champrosay, when he is looking for respite from city life.

1848: Following the Revolution and the end of the reign of King Louis Philippe and the establishment of Louis Napoleon (later Napoleon the Third), “Liberty Leading the People”, is finally put on public display. Some critics think that the boy holding the gun in the painting was inspiration for Victor Hugo to write his novel “Les Miserables” in 1862. He begins painting the ceiling of the Galerie d’Apollon in the Louvre.

1855: He paints “Arab Saddling his Horse”.

1856: He paints the first of many versions of “The Lion Hunt”.

1857: He begins working on the Chapelle des Agnes at St. Sulpice.

1860: He paints “Arab Horses Fighting in a Stable”

1862: He and several other colleagues create the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. 

1863: He was never in robust health throughout his life but the winter of 1862–63 is extremely tough for him. He contracts a severe throat infection and is permanently exhausted. He returns to Paris on 1st June to consult his doctor and goes back to his country cottage on 16th June. By the 15th July he again has to see his doctor, who says he can do no more for him. By now he can only eat fruit. He writes his will and in it forbids the taking of a likeness of him “whether by a death-mask or by drawing or by photography”.

Eugène Delacroix died On 13th August, in Paris, France and was buried there in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.