“Frederic Chopin” by Eugene Delacroix,1838, 14.57 inch x 17.72 inch, oil on canvas

Portraits
"Frederic Chopin" 1838

“Frederic Chopin” 1838

Eugene Delacroix was a French painter who is said to have had a passion for the exotic and chose to travel to North Africa to study art instead of traveling to Italy to study classical Roman and Greek art. However, he was inspired by Rubens and other Venetian Renaissance painters and was attracted to English painting. Because Delacroix was inspired by Rubens, he was drawn to tradition, but found a way of expressing traditional painting in his own unique way.  He was also trained by the neo-classical painter Pierre Guerin from 1816 to about 1823 and held his first exhibit at the Salon of 1822, a great accomplishment of the time. Delacroix liked to use expressive brushstrokes and showed the importance of movement and color in his pieces rather than clarity of outline and carefully modeled form. As well as painting this portrait of Frederic Chopin, Delacroix also illustrated many works of Shakespeare.

Frederic Chopin was a Polish composer and pianist during the Romantic Era and was also a child prodigy who finished his musical education and composed many great works by the young age of 20. He left Poland shortly after completing his music education and after having a failed engagement with a Polish girl. Thereafter he maintained a troubled relationship with the French writer George Sand. Sand was the author of daring novels and six years older than Chopin.  She was also the mutual friend between Delacroix and Chopin, which is how the two came to know one another. The two men became close friends and Delacroix kept this portrait in his studio until his death.

An interesting feature of this portrait is that it was originally a double portrait of George Sand and Eugene Delacroix, see below. The owner of the painting thought that the portraits would garner more value separately and were therefore cut apart. In the original portrait, Chopin is playing the piano and George Sand is sewing, which was a favorite pass time of the writer. From this portrait, the viewer can see the loose brushstrokes that were common with Delacroix as well as the emphasis on color. Just in Chopin’s hair alone one can see hints of yellow and oranges that add depth to the overall portrait. From Chopin’s facial expression it seems as though he is confident and focused, he knows he has extraordinary talent and intends to show the world this. He is passionate about his craft and wants the viewer to know that. This portrait is a great example of Romantic characteristics particularly in regards to color and emotion. The colors are moody and dark, and the face is showing the emotions behind the man, which is what Romantic artist aimed to do. The fuzzy outline instead of crisp lines is also characteristic of Romanticism and although Delacroix was inspired by the traditional, this portrait is very much Romantic. Baudelaire said of Delacroix, “Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible.”

ChopinSandDelacroix

Smolenska-Zielinska, Barbara. “Chopin : Biography.” Chopin : Biography. Official Chopin Homepage, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

“Delacroix – The Complete Works.” Delacroix – The Complete Works. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Neret, Giles. “Eugene Delacroix.” Eugene Delacroix. Artchive, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

“Eugène Delacroix.” The National Gallery, London. The National Gallery, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

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“Thomas Otway” by William Blake, 1800, 40.5 x 76.2 cm ,Tempera on canvas

Portraits
"Thomas Otway" by William Blake, 1800

“Thomas Otway” by William Blake, 1800

William Blake was a well-known poet and painter during the Romantic period. While misunderstood during his lifetime, Blake finally received credit for his impact on the arts far after his death.  William Blake was said to be “opinionated, questioning, rebellious and sometimes obdurate and saucy” (Barker). In his time, Blake was seen as eccentric and some viewed him as a madman. Because of this he was educated at home by his mother. He began his artistic career early and at the age of 10 enrolled at Henry Par’s drawing school. He studied engraving and was enthralled by the classical style of High Renaissance and collected prints from Durer, Raphael and Michelangelo. Throughout his career, Blake was commissioned to make many engravings as well as to paint watercolors. It is said that William Blake hated oils, the popular medium at the time, which is why he chose watercolor instead (“47 Paintings…). He also chose to use myths as his subject of work in order to “illustrate his mystical view of the universe” (“47 Paintings…”).

Blake painted the portrait of Thomas Otway in 1800 on canvas using tempera. Thomas Otway was a dramatist during the Restoration Period of England and William Blake may have chosen to paint Otway because of his attraction to the drama and fantasy involved in plays, although not much is known about this portrait. What’s intriguing about this portrait, in my opinion, is the facial expression Thomas Otway has. He is inviting the audience to look at him, but looking past the viewer at the same time. It is as if he is dreaming of something by the resting of the head on the hand and the slight upturn of a smile. What’s also interesting is the scene happening in the foreground. The man is posed to hit the woman and the woman is shielding her face. From my guess, this is probably a scene from one of Otway’s plays. This also adds to the intrigue of Otway’s facial expression because it seems as though he is watching one of his own plays happening before him. The drama and moodiness of this portrait plays on the elements of Romanticism, so while this portrait has elements of antiquity (looking at the background and color choice), it also fits into the period in which it was created. I also appreciate how the painting is sketchy and monochromatic while still showing depth and tonal changes.

While William Blake is appreciated more now than he was when he was alive, he followed the beat of his own drum and created great works of art. His interest in the classical style is evident in most of his paintings and engravings which is unique to find during this time period. But he also uses smooth, wispy brushstrokes in his paintings which was popular during this time. What can be most appreciated about Blake is the confidence he had to do what he wanted and create pieces of work that allow viewers into a mystical world of his own creation.

Barker, Elizabeth E. . “William Blake (1757–1827)”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/blke/hd_blke.htm (October 2004)

“47 Paintings by William Blake.” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.

For a more detailed look into William Blake check out this article from Khan Academy

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/romanticism/romanticism-in-england/a/blake-the-spiritual-form-of-nelson-guiding-leviathan