Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix
26 April 1798
; Charenton (Saint-Maurice, Val-de-Marne), Île-de-France, France *
13 August 1863
; Paris, France *
Considered the leader of the French Romantic school of painting, Eugene Delacroix was a prolific artist, producing over 9,000 works during his lifetime, ranging from paintings, to watercolors, pastels and drawings. His work both shaped the Impressionist artists and inspired the Symbolist movement. Taking inspiration from Peter Paul Rubens and the Venetian Renaissance painters, his painting style emphasized colors and movement rather than the carefully modeled form and clear outline. After completing his education in art, he submitted his first work the Paris Salon The Barque of the Dante, which was accepted, in 1822. This first piece caused a sensation and was harshly criticized, but it was nonetheless bough by the State for the Luxembourg Galleries. This began a pattern of his critical reception throughout his career. First, his work was criticized, but later accepted and purchased by the state or personal patron.
His works revolved around many themes, many of which were inspired by the works of Shakespeare, Goethe, and Byron, and entailed the motifs of violence and sensuality. Perhaps his most widely know piece is Liberty Leading the Republic, which invoked the image of liberty leading the people. The French government initially bough the painting, but soon deemed it too anti-establishment, and had it withdrawn from view. In 1832, he traveled to Morocco to escape Paris society, and experience a more primitive culture. His time there inspired over 100 paintings, and he compared the people there to the early citizens of Rome or Greece.
Perhaps the most scandalous or noteworthy aspect of Delacroix’s personal life was the fact that he was most likely the illegitimate child of Talleyrand, a French diplomat, as his father never conceived any other children. After both his father and mother died, leaving him an orphan at the age of 16, he spent much of life under the protection of the Frenchman. His legacy includes a number of portraits, landscapes, and figure paintings. He also helped found the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts, along with other notable French artists of the day. His face was featured on the French banknote, minted in 2003.