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.”
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.
For a more in-depth biography of Eugene Delacroix and a list of his works visit http://www.eugenedelacroix.org/biography.html.
To listen to compositions by Frederic Chopin click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wygy721nzRc.