Hello blog readers. For Day 49 of the 365 Days of Art, I present Liberty Leading the People from Delacroix.
Five things about Delacroix and/or this piece:
- Delacroix was a French artist and he made this painting in about three months (September through sometime in December of 1830). He did extensive underdrawings and then painted the piece as a response to the Three Glorious Days riot that happened in July 1830, when the people of France stood up to the monarchy. King Charles X implemented a constitutional takeover and it angered the people for the final time – the straw that broke the camel’s back – and so the people of Paris turned against the King and a bloody battle went on for three days – leaving one thousand people dead. After the riot, Charles the X was replaced by Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans. Delacroix wrote to his brother in October, while working on this painting, and said, “I have undertaken a modern subject, a barricade, and although I may not have fought for my country, at least I shall have painted for her. It has restored my good spirits.”
- Delacroix was considered a romantic painter (not romance romantic, but with emphasis on imagination and emotion – here). His skills were enhanced by his arduous study – because like many artists of his time, he spent many hours studying the masterful paintings at the Louvre – becoming infused with ideas (from the past masterpieces) to then produce his works with his own twist.
- Liberty Leading the People would be a good choice for connecting art with history. Also, it provides another example of how artists use their work to express their feelings about social issues. Delacroix gives us an allegorical interpretation of this riot – with rich color, masterful brushwork, and balanced by a sophisticated pyramidal composition. Delacroix also felt torn about the riot and the state of affairs. He wrestled with being a bystander during the three days riot and was also worried about being hit by a stray bullet. I am not sure I would want to sit and talk with Delacroix for very long, but if I did, I would tell him that Lady Liberty’s girls are completely unsupported and maybe next time he could pencil in some support…. (jk)
4. Cezanne described Delacroix’s use of color as intoxicating – (not necessarily from the piece Liberty Leading the People, but from many of Delacroix’s works) and he said, “All this luminous colour. It seems to me that it enters the eye like a glass of wine running into your gullet and it makes you drunk straight away.”
Here is a coloring sheet:
5. If I were doing a workshop about Delacroix, I would talk about some of his personal aspirations and I would maybe give my biased opinion about some things. For example, he claimed that his painting was for the ‘fatherland’ (France). So he loved his country. He wanted to be in the group of the elites so badly that he applied to the Académie des Beaux Arts SEVEN times – until he was finally accepted. This is also why he likely did not join the fighting of the riots – he felt for the republic, but made his money from the royals. He was conflicted (as revealed in some of his letters). Delacroix also felt a sense of superiority to the middle class, referred to them as barbaric, and even though he felt for their plight – he was caught in the middle of this uprising – like many French folks were: ambiguous about the “maintenance of the constitutional Monarchy and restoration of the Republic.” Delacroix came from a wealthy family, but he elevated his earthly stance
because sadly his self-esteem was based on such shallow superiorities. I guess his dad had testicular problems and so his mother had to mate with someone else for her children and so Delacroix had a different biological dad) and so his biological dad was from a line of prestigious French Statesmen (maybe going back eight generations).
Interesting, in Les Miserables, (CHAPTER IX—A MERRY END TO MIRTH) Victor Hugo noted that Cossette’s father, the only man Fantine had slept with, was from a line of French Statesmen, going back many generations of judges. For those that don’t know the Fantine story, or are rusty, this group of rich guys had left home for adventure and they spent two years partying – which involved hooking up with some girls. Fantine was one of those young ladies – and she was this tender, empathetic, devoted young girl and this was her very first relationship – she vulnerable and really in love (and foolishly) gave it up – without being married. Well the guys decided to head back to their stately residences, to get on with real life, and they coldly left the girls hanging – the saddest part was that Fantine was with child – the man (her lover) did not know – and back then being a single mom was much more difficult than it is today.
Anyhow, that comes to mind when I think of Delacroix – how lineage was so important to him – and then a few connections to Les Mis.
And speaking of Victor Hugo, in July 1803, he wrote a poem about the Three Glorious Days (Frères, vous avez vos journées)
Here is a snippet:
With tyrant dead your fathers traced
A circle wide, with battles graced;
Victorious garland, red and vast!
Which blooming out from home did go
To Cadiz, Cairo, Rome, Moscow,
From Jemappes to Montmirail passed!
Falkayn, D. (2001). A Guide to The Life, Times, and Works of Victor Hugo. The Minerva Group, Inc.
Prodger, M. (2016) Damnation, Dante and decadence: Why Eugène Delacroix is making a hero’s return. The Guardian