Date of Creation:
July 28, 1830, Liberty on the Barricades
Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre
Delacroix writing to his brother:
"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."
The liberal republicans were outraged by the violation of the Constitution, and overthrew Charles X, who was to be the last Bourbon king of France. His predecessor was Louis Philippe, the Duke of Orleans.
In this artwork Liberty is personified in the form of a vibrant, rebellious, bare breasted woman who leads the people to victory. She carries the flag proudly. Thrilled to have a modern subject to paint, Delacroix took to the canvas with great pride and patriotism. Though he had not taken an active part in the fighting of the revolution he had done his share for his country.
Instead of guns and cannons he used an easel and a paintbrush - he felt it was his duty as a painter to record this event as the revolutionists felt it was their duty to fight.
The artist was touched by the three days of revolt by the upper-class, the middle-class, and the lower-class in France all fighting to overthrow Charles X to show their outrage of the violation of the constitution and thus he paid honor to this event by providing a historical recount of French history.
July 28: Liberty Leading the People is one of his most remembered and favored works today.
Delacroix main compositional device is the pyramid shape; the figure of Liberty is the peak and the dead fighters below her form the base. This pyramid technique balances out the hectic and crowded canvas.
Delacroix's use of color is never surface level. He repeats the color of the French flag to emphasize the power of France and the power of her people.
To connect the heroine Liberty with the fighting people, Delacroix uses the same color of her dress on the neck tie of a revolutionist and his colors are repeated used throughout the canvas to create unity, representing that of the revolutionists.
Use of light:
Delacroix uses light to illuminate Liberty and to highlight a dead fighter beneath her.
This piece conjures up feelings of power, of freedom and of victory while paying tribute to those who died fighting for their cause and country.
The emotional rhythm of Delacroix's brushstroke seemed to be a vital part of his originality. In its diversity one can see long and large, continuous strokes as well as small, divided, independent ones.
July 28: Liberty Leading the People Analysis
July 28: Liberty Leading the People was not available for public viewing during the king's reign. Critics failed to respond to this innovative work, accustomed to a more classical representation of reality.
Delacroix's mix of reality with allegory, actuality and fiction, symbolism and documentary proved too advanced and imaginative for them.
July 28: Liberty Leading the People entered the Musée du Luxembourg in 1863, the same year that Delacroix died. It was moved to the Louvre 11 years later.
The response to the work was slightly more favorable after being relocated but it didn't receive the credit it duly deserved until much later on.
Modern day reception:
Critics of today perceive July 28: Liberty Leading the People as a masterpiece and a universal work. They admire the Romantic historical painting and appreciate Delacroix's unique take on this historical landmark.
It is said that the Statue of Liberty was inspired by Delacroix's very own personified character of Liberty in his July 28: Liberty Leading the People.
A gift from France to New York City, the Statue of Liberty was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and was constructed just 50 years after Delacroix's masterpiece. The statue, with a raised right arm holds a torch proudly, very similar to the pose in which Liberty holds the French flag.
Instead the painting decorated the walls of the Palace museum before being taken down because of its political message just a few months later. It was exhibited in 1848 and then again at the Salon of 1855 before being transferred to the Louvre in 1874.
He painted July 28: Liberty Leading the People at the age of 32. After developing the plan for the painting by preliminary sketches, he completed the work in just three months. It was finished in November of 1830 and exhibited at the Salon in May of 1831.
Delacroix believed that although he did not actively participate in the actual fighting, he had done his duty for his country by painting July 28: Liberty Leading the People.
Known as a "master of color," Delacroix became a pupil of the English Romantic landscapists and extracted from their techniques, to develop a unique and memorable approach to color.
The impact of literature and both historical and contemporary events, coupled with his innate artistic technique created an explosive viewing experience on canvas, as seen in July 28: Liberty Leading the People.
Delacroix's work changed the art world forever and his technique had a lasting impact on the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements such as van Gogh and Cezanne.
Today, he is remembered as one of the world's most influential French Romantic painters and his expertise and genius is fully recognized and appreciated by modern day art critics.
Romanticism emphasizes the individual sense of self, creativity, imagination, and the value of art to make a statement. This emphasis on the individual is reflected in the ideas of self-realization through the act of contemplating nature. There is the idea that the individual can only directly understand nature, free from society. Peace and salvation come through the individual rather than through political movements.
Romantic painters like Delacroix were part of a complex multimedia philosophical movement, involving the literary, visual, and intellectual arts.
Eugene Delacroix fine-tuned Romanticism, incorporating the influences of great masters such as Michelangelo and Peter Paul Rubens. He developed his own personal style, with an affinity for showing pain and suffering in his work through brightly colored canvases.
To find out more about Delacroix and his work please refer to the recommended reading list below.
• Bussy, Dorothy. Eugene Delacroix. BiblioBazaar, 2009
• Gombrich, E. H. The Story of Art. Phaidon Press Limited, 1995
• Jobert, Barthélémy. Delacroix. Princeton University Press, 1997
• Johnson, Dorothy. David to Delacroix: The Rise of Romantic Mythology (Bettie Allison Rand Lectures in Art History). The University of North Carolina Press, 2011
• Johnson, Lee. Delacroix. New York Press, 1963
• Kauffman, Jean-Paul. Wrestling with the Angel: The Mystery of Delacroix's Mural. The Harvill Press, 2003
• Noon, Patrick, et al. Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism. Tate Publishing, 2003
• Prideaux, Tom. The World of Delacroix: 1798-1863. Time Life Education, 1966
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