Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Liberty Leading the People, by Delacroix

The painting I`ve chosen is Liberty leading people, by Eugène Délacroix. It was painted in 1830 and it was first exhibited at the official Salon of May 1831. It’s an oil painting on canvas and its dimensions are 260 cm × 325 cm. The picture was bought by the French king Louis Philip of Orleans in 1831, but after the criticism it caused, it was returned to the author in 1832.

However, in 1848 the director of the National Museums claimed the painting, and the author returned it in 1849. When the Second Empire was established, the painting became part of the collection of the Louvre Museum until now.

This work has become a universal icon of the struggle for freedom.

On this painting we see a bare-breasted woman in the center of the crowd with a flag in her right hand and a bayonet in her left hand. The sky is covered by smoke from the guns. We also see a guy with two guns in his hands and one of them shooting. Then we see a man with a top hat with a gun in hand and next to him there is another man in a white shirt with half-raised hand. Next to that man there is a guy on the floor trying to hold something or someone. Finally,  there is a person kneeling before the woman of the center and he is looking at her. There are also several people dead and one of them is naked. In the background on the right we can see some buildings, like the Notre-Dame Cathedral building. In the left part of the painting there are many people with theirhands raised and arms. They are members of different social classes.

The figure of the top hat is a bourgeois. The suggestion that it was a self-portrait by Delacroix has been discounted by modern art historians. In the late 19th century, it was suggested that the model was the theatre director Étienne Arago. Others suggested the future curator of the Louvre, Frédéric Villot.

The characters form a pyramid whose base are the bodies of those who have fallen in the fight against tyranny, the corpses are illuminated to see its importance.

The bare-breasted female figure symbolizes Liberty and she is carrying two revolutionary symbols: the Phrygian cap and the tricolor flag. 

The Phrygian cap 

Tricolor flag 

Eugene Delacroix created this painting after the July Revolution of 1830, where King Charles X was overthrown as head of the monarchy in France. The painting allegorically symbolizes the conquest of freedom by the French people. Liberty Leading the People glorifies French society’s victory, depicting the revolutionaries' view of an easy success. The entire painting glorifies war as a means to perpetuate French pride. The painting reflects the radical idea that instigated the French Revolution, we all must look up to the ideals of liberty. 

Delacroix’s brushwork is very loose, pasty and sketchy, with rich colors and full of light. Colour stains dominate over drawing. Color is used to express feelings, as usual in the romantic painters. The predominant colors are light browns and subdued tones, but the use of intense colors in the French flag (white, red and blue) stands out... These colors are on the flag, on uniforms and on the farmer. There are contrasts between light and shadow. The violent light is not real. This light focuses on the woman to illuminate the tricolor flag, in a part of the child's body and in the man with the blue jacket and the dead man at the bottom left. In this case the light is used to create a sensation of movement.

The sense of perspective is present in the work with the background buildings and the crowd, which is moving away and reducing the size of the background.

The skyline is somewhat unstable. It would be the imaginary line between the heads of the crowd at the bottom of the picture, that fade with smoke, and the buildings in the background. Three elements (flag, shirt, dead men and wounded in front of the Freedom) form an imaginary straight line that converges in a central axis. The main figures are part of a pyramid. The two dead men and Freedom close the triangle.

Delacroix was the most famous romantic painter in France. He was the son of  a powerful man with a lot of money. This painter was rich, but lonely and was always sick.

From an artistic point of view, Delacroix drew influences from painters such as Titian and Caravaggio. Goya is a direct precedent of this work, with his painting, The Third of May 1808. And Delacroix was also influenced by Géricault.

The Third of May 1808, by Goya

The Raft of the Medusa, by Gericault

Delacroix represented other historical themes with similar drama.

The Massacre at Chios Greek 

The Ruins of Missolonghi

This painting equally represents the nation with a woman’s figure, who also reflects an episode of the Greek people's struggle for liberation.

I´ve chosen this painting because I thought that I would learn a lot and it was true. I´ve learned a lot of important things about the painting and at the same time about Delacroix. I like this painting because it transmits you a lot of emotions.

  • This painting was also called Barricade scenes
  • Delacroix’s father held political posts under the Directory and Napoleonic Empire.
  • Since 1842 Delacroix had a chronic illness which required him to spend weeks in bed.
  • Delacroix was considered to be a new Rubens.

I hope you like it!! :)

1 comment:

Paqui Pérez Fons said...

Hello Andrea,

Your final mark is 8. See you!