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Art History

Eugène Delacroix: biography

Eugène Delacroix was born on 26 April 1798 at Charenton-Saint-Maurice. His father, Charles, was Minister of Foreign Affairs under the Directory and then the imperial Préfet in Marseilles and Bordeaux, and his mother Victoire Oeben was the daughter of the famous cabinetmaker of Louis XVI. After Charles died in Bordeaux in 1806, the family moved to Paris, where Eugène enrolled at the Lycée Imperial. In October 1815 he started to attend the studio of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin and two years later he enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he became friends with Géricault. His first public commission came in 1819, when he painted the Virgin and Child, inspired by Raphael, for the parish church of Orcemont. The following year he executed the Madonna of the Sacred Heart for the bishop’s palace in Nantes. In the 1822 Salon he exhibited Dante and Virgil Crossing the Styx (or: The Barque of Dante), which he had painted in just three months. Something of a habitué on the social scene, he made friends with the English painter Fielding, with whom he shared a studio in rue Jacob. He exhibited Massacres at Chios and Tasso Imprisoned in the Madhouse at Ferrara at the 1824 Salon, in 1826 he painted Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi and in 1827 he participated in the Salon with a number of paintings, including The Death of Sardanapalus, which caused a great outcry. In 1830 he painted Liberty Leading the People, which would later be shown at the 1831 Salon. In September he was awarded the Légion d’honneur. The following year he accompanied the Comte de Mornay, Louis-Philippe’s ambassador, to Morocco. He also visited Tunisia and Spain before returning to Paris in July. In 1833 he was commissioned to paint the Salon du Roi in the Palais-Bourbon, which kept him occupied until 1836. In 1839 he made a trip to Holland and Belgium in the company of Elise Boulanger. The following year he received two important commissions: the Pietà for the church of Saint-Denis-du-Saint-Sacrament and the decoration of the Musée du Luxembourg. A serious attack of laryngitis in 1842 forced him to undergo extensive treatment, which he alternated with visits to stay with his friends Riesener and George Sand. It did not, however, slow down his artistic output, and he continued to work busily on a series of lithographs for Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the decoration of the Chamber of Deputies. In 1850 he was awarded the commission to paint the ceiling of the Galerie d’Apollon in the Louvre, followed by paintings in the Hôtel de la Ville. He published a work on Nicolas Poussin in 1852 and two years later a book entitled Questions sur le beau. In May 1855 he exhibited forty-two paintings at the Exposition Universelle. He was admitted as a member of the Institut in 1857 and decided to write a Dictionnaire des Beaux-Arts. In the same year he moved to 6 Place de Furstenberg, which today houses the Musèe Delacroix. In 1859 he participated in his last Salon with thirty-four works and in 1861 he managed to complete the mural paintings at Saint-Sulpice. He died in Paris on 13 August 1863.

The works