Sunday, 20 June 2010


“A man’s age is something impressive, it sums up his life: Maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves. A man’s age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix (1780 – 1867) was one of the most important of the French Romantic painters. Delacroix’s use of expressive brushstrokes and his study of the optical effects of colour set the groundwork for the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic inspired the artists of the Symbolist movement.

Also a fine lithographer, Delacroix illustrated various works of William Shakespeare, the Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, and the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In contrast to the Neoclassical perfectionism of his chief rival Ingres, Delacroix took for his inspiration the art of Rubens and painters of the Venetian Renaissance, with a strong emphasis on colour and movement rather than clarity of outline and carefully modelled forms.

Dramatic and romantic content characterised the central themes of his maturity, and although aware of the classical models of Greek and Roman art, he chose to travel in North Africa, in search of the exotic. Friend and spiritual heir to Théodore Géricault, Delacroix was also inspired by Byron, with whom he shared a strong identification with the forces of nature, in often violent action.

However, Delacroix was given neither to sentimentality nor bombast, and his Romanticism was that of an individualist. In the words of Baudelaire: “Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible.”

Here is his “Sea from the Heights of Dieppe” from ca 1852. A golden light suffuses the work and the cloudy sky allows some of the blue to show, which appears hopeful and pure. The flotilla of small boats rides the waves and the craft of the foreground has set sail to join them. To the right the inky darkness of the sea hints at the approaching night – the artist was 72 years old when he painted this. One could mistake this for a work by an impressionist painter. It is one of my favourite works of his.


  1. Ooooooh! I love this painting Nic!!!!
    I didnt know much about this painter but this is beautiful.......

  2. I have seen other Delacroix paintings but not this little gem! Thanks for posting it here, Nicholas!
    it is very impressionistic and sketch-like , but very powerful.