June 1, 2023
Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, fragment of a painting.

Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, fragment of a painting.

One of the most shocking stories about Eugene Delacroix is ​​about how he went to the zoo at the Botanical Garden. Or rather, WHY he went there with a friend, animal sculptor Antoine-Louis Barry.

Everything is clear with the animal painter: his interest in the kingdom of animals is natural. But artists in France preferred to paint animals not from nature, but from sculptures. So, Delacroix could drop everything if it became known that a new animal had been bought. And if an individual died, then it was almost a holiday in general. A note from Eugène Delacroix has been preserved, calling for a friend to appear at the zoo as soon as possible, since “the lion is dead.” After the death of the beast, it was supposed to remove the skin. For Barry, this was of interest, since it was necessary to study the muscles. For Delacroix, it was necessary that the battles of animals and the hunting scenes look natural.

Self-portrait of Delacroix, 1837.

Self-portrait of Delacroix, 1837.

And they looked like that. From the very first canvases, where there were dead babies, and women who were about to have their throats cut, and crowded slaughterhouses, both ancient and biblical, they began to accuse the fragile and short Eugene of special cruelty from the very first canvases. He was sickly, did not like children, never married, although he adored for a long time, until his early death, one baroness. There were legends about him that he was the illegitimate son of Minister Talleyrand, that he was unbearable in childhood, that hooligan antics several times nearly caused the death of the future pride of French romanticism. But the main picture of his life was “Freedom Leading the People”. Let’s talk about her.

Delacroix's most famous painting "Freedom Leading the People".

Delacroix’s most famous painting is Liberty Leading the People.

Colors leading to the guillotine

This painting has three names: Liberty Leading the People, Liberty at the Barricades, and the original: July 28, 1830. The day of the rebellion, the start of the July Revolution. The center of a huge canvas is a girl with a bare chest, waving a flag, with weapons in her hands and leading the rebels. There are no traces of a real model for Freedom in history. It is assumed that the profile of Marianne was painted from the profile of Venus de Milo. And then this profile became famous all over the world – it inspired the creator of the Statue of Liberty, it appeared on numerous cartoons and leaflets during the Second World War …

The color scheme of the picture is a tricolor. Red, white, blue. Before the July Revolution, King Charles the Tenth introduced the death penalty for the tricolor. And Delacroix, who admitted that he could not help the country in any way, could only work in honor of his homeland, painted a huge canvas (325 by 265 centimeters) in three months. And everything was designed in three primary colors, until recently leading to the guillotine.

Marianne and Gavroche

Below, under the barricades – the dead. The most different, from different camps. There is even a man without pants. And this is a very thick allusion to looting. There were no saints on either side of the barricades. Yes, and the rebels from above, next to Marianne, are of particular interest to historians: they have bags of royal soldiers captured clearly not from prisoners, because prisoners are rarely taken during revolutions. One of the characters next to Marianne is a boy with two pistols. Many believe that he became the prototype for Victor Hugo’s Gavroche in Les Misérables.

Too much freedom

The painting was painted in 1830 and was exhibited at the Salon in 1831. And then the state bought it, and immediately hid it. There is too much freedom, to which the road is literally laid with the chest. For 43 years the canvas was not seen by the audience, and then it ended up in the Louvre.

The state, in principle, did not offend the artist, and monumental orders were thrown up regularly, and the Order of the Legion of Honor was awarded. But Delacroix, despite external success, was very lacking in health. A throat infection began, and in the last months of his life, the artist could only eat fruits. He died in August 1863, fully aware of the approach of the end, which he so successfully delayed, not exchanging for children and family, wasting passion only while working on paintings.

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