Tag Archives: Eugene Delacroix

Eugene Delacroix – Horse Frightened by Lightning

22 Oct

Eugene Delacroix, Horse Frightened by Lightning, 1825-29, watercolour

The spirit of Romanticism is alive and intense in this wonderful and expressive watercolour by Delacroix. The simplicity of the composition contrasts the intense and dramatic mood that is conveyed. Using the combination of simple visual elements; a wild horse, a desolate landscape, and a gloomy sky with a lightning, Delacroix created a painting that encapsulated the aesthetic of the Sublime. The face expression of the horse and his pose convey his torment and fear at the sudden lightning and thunder that have appeared in the sky. He seems truly unsettled and his feelings seep into the lonely landscape around him and his fear touches the viewer too; our sympathy for the poor frightened animal mingles with the feeling of awe at the nature’s unpredictability and power. This scene seems like something I would imagine whilst reading a Gothic novel.

Delacroix inherited his love and admiration for horses from another master of French Romanticism; Theodore Gericault, who was only a few years older than Delacroix but at the time this watercolour was painted, Gericault had already been dead. But despite his short life and even shorter career his dramatic art full of feelings and dark passions set the standard for the French Romanticism. Wild and untamed, or tamed but still very beautiful, strong and awe-inspiring, horses are a motif we find often in the art of Romanticism; in Fuseli’s Nightmare, in the art of Sawrey Gilpin, Gros and Gericault. A century later Franz Marc painted vibrant and expressive paintings of horses as well. For Romanticists a horse was a symbol of something wild and unstoppable, of the fire of youth, of passion for exploration, of bravery and Delacroix chose to portray this majestic animals in numerous occasions.

In this watercolour the horse is clearly not representative of something strong and wild, but rather the opposite. Panicked and red-eyed, the horse exhibits his more emotional, vulnerable side, something one wouldn’t expect to see portrayed and this strange constrasts adds to the painting’s stunning beauty; it is not just aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but poingnant and strange all at the same time. The reason why I love this painting so much is firstly because it is a watercolour and I love watercolours, and secondly because of its simplicity, passion and expressiveness, and the colour scheme where the mystical deep shades of blue present in the sky and also as subtle touches on the horse add to the mood of the sublime. A brown colour scheme would have muted the effect of terror, strangeness and drama. Blue is the colour of the deep sea and the sky, of things infinite and mysterious. The landscape around the horse thus gets a mystical air and we might wonder whether the horse itself is but our vision or a fancy…

Eugène Delacroix – Hamlet and Horatio in the Graveyard

13 Oct

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!”

Eugène Delacroix, Hamlet and Horatio in the Graveyard, 1839, Oil on canvas, 29,5 x 36 cm

Eugene Delacroix’s temperament, lifestyle and interests made him the perfect Romantic artist. Delacroix travelled to hot, vibrant, exotic places such as Morrocco, but he also travelled in his imagination to the romantic and alluring, dark and dramatic past eras. He was also an avid reader; words of Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe and others fed his soul and fired his imagination. His ardent love of literature came with a knack for illustrating the scenes that he was reading about, he was prolific at it, and he was great at it. A theme that he found himself returning to often throughout the years was Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet and especially the scene where Hamlet and Horatio are at the graveyard. Delacroix made different litographs and watercolours of the scene, but his most well-known depiction of the scene is the painting from 1839. The scene shows four figures; Horatio and Hamlet standing by the grave and two gravediggers digging the grave for Ophelia who had recently perished. This is a rather morbid, depressive chore but the gravediggers are so used to it that they are unphased. They are capable of digging a hole and talking about decomposing bodies and death as if they are exchanging recepies over tea. This makes it almost grotesque, but for Hamlet the discovery of the skull of Yorick leads to deeper thoughts, pensiveness and introspection; how transient and meaningless life is, how it passes and means nothing, how every corpse here on the graveyard was once a person with wishes, yearnings, loves. The personalities of gravediggers and Hamlet could not be more different. Here is an excerpt from their dialogue from Act V, Scene I:

Gravedigger: This skull has lain in the earth three-and-twenty years.
Hamlet: Whose was it?
Gravedigger: A whoreson mad fellow’s it was. Whose do you think it was?
Hamlet: Nay, I know not.
Gravedigger: A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! He poured a flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, sir, was Yorick’s skull, the king’s jester.
Hamlet: This?
Gravedigger: E’en that.
Hamlet: Let me see. (takes the skull) Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. —Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite chapfallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.—Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.

Eugene Delacroix, Hamlet and Horatio in the Graveyard, watercolour, 1827-28

Eugene Delacroix, Hamlet Contemplating Yorick’s Skull, litograph, 1828

In his litographs Delacroix had depicted the scene with more details, in composition and in the clothes of the figures, everything feels more ornate and Baroque-like. The painting is stripped of all unnecessary details and ornaments. Only four figures set against a distant landscape and the stormy sky with dark clouds. This allowed Delacroix to place his focus on the analysis of the characters and the drama that is going on in the scene. The bare-chested gravedigger holding a skull is quite a sight, but all eyes are on Hamlet. Delacroix saw him through the lenses of Romanticism and he depicted him as a pale, melancholy, frail and gentle looking man dressed in black. His pale and small, almost feminine looking hands, stand out against the darkness of his clothes. His hair is flying in the wind and the stormy clouds seem to echo the stormy state of his soul. Pale and withered, in a pensive mood, reflecting on matters of life and death, and anticipating the burial of Ophelia, Hamlet is like a frail lily-flower just plucked from the ground. The watercolour version of the scene shows an equally frail, melancholy Hamlet and the whole mood is lyrical and wistful in a way that can only be accomplished with the medium of the watercolour.

Eugene Delacroix – Orphan Girl at the Cemetery

26 Apr

A French painter of Romanticism, Eugene Delacroix, was born on this day, 26th April, in 1798 and today we’ll take a look at one of his early works, the “Orphan Girl at the Cemetery”.

Eugène Delacroix, Orphan Girl at the Cemetery (Jeune orpheline au cimetière), 1823-24

A young girl alone at the cemetery looks up towards the sky, with a prayer mounting in her heart and not yet spoken on her lips. She sees the large white clouds moving monotonously, slowly, tiredly; she wishes to talk to God but the sky is empty, to quote Sylvia Plath. The girl is painted from the profile, with large eyes turned upwards and mouth slightly open. Her left shoulder is left bare and her right arm is resting lifelessly on her knee; all suggesting resignation and vulnerability. The graveyard in the French countryside, as it is suggested, with its wooden crosses, forgotten names, mud, flowers and candles, is a vision of loneliness. As dusk descends, not a soul is around. Her eyes and her pose tell us so much. She is seeking answers, she is unloved and confused, and contemplating over her life she sees nothing but poverty and uncertainty. Look at her eyes. This is sadness beyond tears and meaningless words. Tombstones and the trees in the background all look tiny in comparison with her rather closely-cropped figure. Mournful murmur of the distant cypress trees mingles with the heavy silence of the wooden crosses.

Since this is one of Delacroix’s early works, the colours are not of the warm and glistening kind that he used after his trip to Morocco in 1832. The limited colour palette of murky browns, greens and yellowish-white serves here to intensify the gloomy mood, and yet on her skin colour the real dynamic dance of colours begins; the warm brown base takes over red, pink and greenish shades in places. The dimly-lit vanilla coloured sky in the background is painted as romantically as it is possible and brings to mind the melancholy sunsets and skies in paintings of a German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. As a true Romanticist, Delacroix approached the subject with a lot of subjectivity, compassion and a depth of feelings. In a harmony of colours and a wonderful composition, he brought the emphasis on what is important; the girl with her pain and her solitude, successfully avoiding the sentimentalising of her position.

Frederic Chopin – A Portrait by Eugene Delacroix

20 Sep

”Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life.” (Musik ist der Mondschein in der düsteren Nacht des Lebens.) – Jean Paul

1838. Chopin by Delacroix aFrederic Chopin by Eugene Delacroix, 1838

When Frederic Chopin first met the French Romantic novelist George Sand, he considered her ugly and unattractive; she was short, dressed as a man and smoke pipe, but two years later he fell in love with her despite her ‘repulsiveness’. Around that time, in 1838, Eugene Delacroix, a close friend of both Chopin and Mrs Sand, decided to paint a joint portrait of the two lovers. However, the portrait was never quite finished for it remained in Delacroix’s studio until his death, and cut into two separate works so we do not know exactly how it looked like, though there are some assumptions about the composition.

The more interesting part of the joint-portrait is, for me, definitely Chopin’s portrait painted by his dear friend Eugene Delacroix, there’s something very special about it. I see in this portrait everything that Chopin’s life and soul were filled with; a romantic longing, sadness and adoration, yearning for his fatherland, love towards everything that is ‘beautiful’ and noble, fragile health and a certain dose of bitterness, I see all of these things in the portrait of a young composer. After reading Chopin’s biography written by Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, I, being already deeply fond of Chopin’s music, his beautiful and mystical Nocturnes, discovered a different side of Chopin. He is mostly remembered as a posh and elegant young man who wore a new pair of white gloves every day, drank champagne, and traveled in his own carriage through the streets of Balzac’s Paris, but Iwaszkiewicz’s biography reveals a gentler and deeper side of him; young Chopin who spent his days chatting with Polish friends, improvising on piano, cheerful and innocent days before his arrival in Paris. Chopin’s love towards Polish countryside is particularly fascinating to me. The secret of his music lies in his travels during which he discovered the mystique of Polish landscape and the secret of its melancholy, dreary mood of the fields he wondered through. After the Fall of Warsaw in 1831, Chopin’s soul closes and we see him very soon in Paris, an elegant dandy who seems to have forgotten everything about his early days in Poland and nostalgic mood that overcame him in Vienna. But the same passions and rebellion still lies in Chopin’s soul, the same longing to escape the banalities of everyday life. He still laments, suffers and grieves – but only on the piano. Maybe that’s the reason his despair and pain seem even larger. His sense of humor and wit concealed his hard feelings and thoughts that he expressed only musically.

Photograph of Frédéric Chopin, 1849

Compared to the only known photography of Chopin, taken the year he died, the painting seems richer and warmer, painted in soft brown shades by a composer’s dear friend Delacroix, the portrait shows a younger and stronger Chopin, though a bit wistful and moody. On the other hand, photograph of Chopin shows a thirty-nine year old artists already fading away, suffering from consumption, tired, weary and physically weak. His last concert was held in London, in honour of Polish immigrants. He played so softly and gently that his performance was completely overshadowed by the murmurs of the arriving guests and reporters. They barely noticed the great virtuous that was playing piano, the Chopin himself.

Chopin died on 17th October 1849, among people dear to him, not among strangers as he often feared. Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ played on his funeral which was attended by his friends and artists such as Delacroix, Theophile Gaultier, composers Pleyel and Franchomme and Alexander Czartoryski.

Sadness that he suppressed during his life was interwoven in all of his compositions; ecstatic and idyllic beauty, pathos, landscapes, strange night scenes, mystique, anger and despair, doubts and fear, gentle love songs, gallantry – all found their place in Chopin’s compositions.

1840s – Paris at the Dusk of Romanticism

11 Feb

My enchantment with the 1840s cannot be put in words for it is a decade that inspires me, fires my imagination, makes me quiver, and enriches my daydreams with its dark romantic aesthetics, beautiful portraits, saloon parties, sentimentality and melancholy, that atmosphere of the changing times; the fleeting nature of Romanticism which defined a whole decade.

1846. Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, duchesse d'Aumale by W.1846. Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, Duchesse d’Aumale by Winterhalten

In the 1840s Paris was still a rabbit warren of narrow, dark and dirty medieval streets, though some parts such as the boulevards and the quays of the Seine were clean and spacious. It was only in 1848. that Georges-Eugene Haussmann started with his gigantic public work projects for new wide boulevards, parks, a new opera house, a central market, new aqueducts, and sewers.

Politically, France was a liberal constitutional monarchy under Louis Philippe I, which lasted from July Revolution of 1830 to the French Revolution of 1848. This was Balzac’s Paris with the rise of the bourgeoisie, ambitious but poor students, filthy boarding houses, corrupted and greedy aristocrats, and poor old people who are unable to adapt to a new age, very different from the one they grew up in.

In these fleeting times when idealism was fading, slowly replaced by materialism (positivism), heroes vanished and common people took their place with common sorrows and troubles, exotic landscapes were replaced by cityscape; illusions were lost for a generation of young Romanticists and a new epoque illuminated Paris like a ray of sunshine. Still, there was an oasis of Romanticism in that half old-half new Paris, over and above, Romanticism developed quite late in France, but this place assembled the heroes of the evanescent times.

(c) National Trust, Mount Stewart; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation1847. Lady Elizabeth Jocelyn (1813–1884), Marchioness of Londonderry

Charlotte Rothschild, aged only eighteen in 1843 when she married her English-born cousin Nathaniel Rothschild, was at the center of cultural events as her parents were very wealthy and artistically inclined, and, as such, they patronised a number of artists, writers and musicians such as Frederick Chopin, Honore de Balzac, Eugene Delacroix, Heinrich Heine and Gioacchinno Rossini. Frederick Chopin enchanted Parisian aristocratic saloons upon arriving in Paris in 1831, at the age of twenty one, after the ‘November 1830 Uprising‘ or the Polish-Russian war took place. Although homesick, Chopin was never to return to his dear homeland.

His new home was Paris, the center of Romanticism at the time, and the capital of European culture in general. His Parisian debut took place on 26 February 1832 at the Salle Pleyel. Liszt, who attended Chopin’s debut, later remarked ‘The most vigorous applause seemed not to suffice to our enthusiasm in the presence of this talented musician, who revealed a new phase of poetic sentiment combined with such happy innovation in the form of his art.‘ Soon after arriving in Paris, Chopin befriended E.Delacroix, Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz. He led a luxurious life, bohemian, but still dressed rather elegantly and showed some vain habits such as wearing a new pair of white gloves every day and riding in his own carriage. He loved the sophisticated Parisian lifestyle.

1840. Claire de Bearn, Duchess of Vallombrosa by W.1840. Claire de Bearn, Duchess of Vallombrosa by Winterhalten

Young Charlotte had a privilege of being Chopin’s piano pupil in 1841, and he even dedicated his celebrated Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52. John Ogdon, twentieth century English composer and pianist later commented ‘It is the most exalted, intense and sublimely powerful of all Chopin’s compositions … It is unbelievable that it lasts only twelve minutes, for it contains the experience of a lifetime.‘ Charlotte was very lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up in a wealthy and culturally inclined family which allowed her to meet many famous artists and writers.

Growing up around the artistic friends of her parents left a lifelong mark on Charlotte who later befriended many other artists too, such as Edouard Manet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Henri Rousseau. Her passion for art did not stop there for she became a painter in her own right. She studied with Nelie Jacquemart and produced many profound watercolours and landscapes which earned her respect. Past weeks I’ve been wondering and daydreaming, then wondering again, how splendid would it be to spend your teenage years at the very center of Parisian Culture in Romanticism, and meet the legends such as Chopin, Victori Hugo, Balzac, Delacroix etc. I’m completely absorbed in these thoughts lately.

1840s Portrait of Yekaterina Scherbatova  - Joseph-Desire Court1840s Portrait of Yekaterina Scherbatova – Joseph-Desire Court

This is just one of the many aspects of the 1840s that I adore. There’s so much more about this beautiful decade: Jane Eyre and the Bronte sisters, first years of Queen Victoria’s reign, founding of the Pre-Raphalites Brotherhood in 1848, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning…

The atmosphere, the portraits of ladies, the fashion, it all deeply engulfs me, enchants me, inspires me unutterably. The 1840s aesthetics are the epitome of the word ‘romantic’ for me; those ladies with their shiny silk dresses with sloping shoulders, slight gothic touch, their wild curls decorated subtly with a rose or two. Sentimentality and melancholy seem to pervade every pore of art and culture in the 1840s.

If you want to immerse yourselves in this Late Romanticism epoch, you can visit my Pinterest board for the visual part of my inspiration.