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Eugene Delacroix



Liberty Leading the People
Delacroix became a leader of the Romantic school of art, deriving his inspiration from violent sources, predominantly war. Delacroix was a humanitarian, and his subjects were largely chosen in response to the tumultuous times in which he lived. Liberty Leading the People and Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi in particular showed his love of allegory in painting, the former depicting representatives of each of the social classes of France following an anthropomorphic Liberty, and the latter depicting Greece as a single grieving woman.

In 1831, Delacroix accompanied Charles de Mornay, a friend and diplomat, on a journey to Morocco--a journey which radically altered the style of Delacroix's painting. Although his subject material had often been the Orient in The Death of Sardanapalus and others, Delacroix had never actually been near these places; his journey to Morocco gave him a firsthand experience which gave him real insight into the things he would paint from then on.

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Delacroix's experience in Morocco accomplished two things. First, it introduced the concept of vibrant colors in a new way. Previously, the notions governing color in paintings kept things generally dark and somber, using dark colors primarily for emphasis and contrast. Delacroix introduced color in a much more free manner, allowing vibrant color to cover every inch of canvas. While Mattisse and Picasso would later adapt this into abstract forms, Delacroix used it to capture precisely every minute detail of a scene--color photographs long before their time.

The Death of Sardanapalus

The second major influence of Delacroix's Morocco journey was that it broke with the tradition of the Italian pilgrimage which almost all artists made. Once he had visited Morocco, he felt that visiting Italy to study art would be absurd. After this, the center of artistic inspiration began to move away from Italy as other artists also began to journey to the near and far East for their studies.


Matthews, Roy T., and F. DeWitt Platt. The Western Humanities. (Mountain View, CA; Mayfield Publishing Group, 1995).

Perry, Marvin, Joseph R. Peden, and Theodore H. Von Laue. Sources of the Western Tradition. (Boston, MA; Houghton Mifflin, 1995).

Sulivan, Richard E., Dennis Sherman, and John B. Harrison. A Short History of Western Civilization. (New York; McGraw-Hill, 1994).

Mras, George. Eugene Delacroix's Theory of Art. (Princeton, NJ; Princeton University Press, 1966).

"Drinking the Color." Time, January 9, 1995.

Edited by: Luthy Chu
Researched by: Susan J. Blauwkamp
and Sarah D. Nietering
Written by: Matthew S. Johnson
April 23, 1997

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