Delacroix, Eugène

Charenton-Saint-Maurice 1798 - Paris 1863
Biography & List of works

A Tiger Drinking

A Tiger Drinking

SOLD

Medium: Oil On Canvas

Size: 26 x 39 cm

Signed: lower right: E. Delacroix

Provenance:

Possibly Boussod Valadon & Cie, bought from Mme de Prez-Cassier in April 1878; then sold to Bright, London in the same month; acquired by the dealer F. Gérard, before March 1888 (and shown to Alfred Robaut in that month); Private Collection, US (by descent); Private Collection, New York.

Literature:

Alfred Robaut, L’Oeuvre Complete de Eugène Delacroix, Paris, 1885, no. 679 ter, p. 182; Raymond Escholier, Delacroix: Peintre, Graveur et Ecrivan, vol. 3, Paris, 1929, illustrated p. 221; Lee Johnson, The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: a Critical Catalogue, 1832-1863, Oxford, 1986, vol. 3 (Text) discussed pp. 18-19 and vol. 4 (Plates), no. 191, pl. 19, (related painting in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT)

One of the pivotal figures of the French Romantic movement, Delacroix was a master of historical and literary subjects on a small and large scale, of intimate and grand portraits, nudes, dramatic depictions of Arab horsemen, exterior scenes and domestic interiors in North Africa, the natural world at its most brutal, still lifes and religious subjects. His first master, Pierre Guérin, bridged the 18th and 19th centuries, having studied himself under Regnault but by the time Delacroix entered his studio, Guérin had already demonstrated his own susceptibility to Romantic impulses. Delacroix broke away from the highly finished technique of his master early on, however, and his bold use of colour, his delicate but fluid brush and intense palette set him apart from almost all his contemporaries.

Delacroix’s landscapes, before his travels in North Africa in the early 1830s, were merely the backdrops for his ambitious subject pictures; freely painted but with little attempt at naturalism. There are two exceptional landscapes, however, done in the 1820s; the first in the background of the affectionate portrait of Delacroix’s elder brother Charles relaxing in front of his small cottage in the village of Le Louroux (Private collection, France), dating from 1822, the second an extensive landscape in which he set a Still life of Game and Lobsters for General Count de Coëtlosquet in 1826-27 (Paris, Louvre). Both these are topographical and the latter in particular recalls the landscapes of Constable that Delacroix would have first known in the mid-1820s. There is little evidence that he paid much attention to the landscape elements of his figurative exteriors, however, until later in his career.

Delacroix’s Moroccan sketchbooks show numerous small watercolour and pencil landscape views, aspects of which were employed in the finished North African subject pictures that he produced from 1834 onwards. In his exterior scenes the backgrounds gradually become more distinctive, so that by the late 1850s works such as Ovid among the Scythians, the Death of Laraand Erminia and the Shepherds each include extensive landscapes, which although imaginary, would seem to be based on his earlier sketches. In his North African landscapes he was able to employ the full range of his extensive palette with notable success; the landscape in The Riding Lesson, of 1854, for example, was particularly noted by several critics when the work was show at the Universal Exhibition of 1855. His grandest Arab scene is the Sultan of Morocco and His Entourage, commissioned by the state in 1845 and sent to the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse where it remains. Although the scene portrayed, which Delacroix had witnessed on his Moroccan trip in 1832, had taken place in a more modest setting, the artist has placed the Sultan before the walls of the city of Meknes, adding to the grandeur of the scene. He repeated this idea in his View of Tangiers with Two Seated Arabs of 1852-53, which shows a statuesque Moroccan woman standing in the foreground, looking back at a distant view of the city walls. The later Arab scenes with landscape backgrounds were suffused with brilliant colours – emerald greens, brilliant yellows, liquid blacks and rich blue skies which attracted the attentions of contemporary critics and served to emphasise the white robes of the Arab horsemen and figures which populate them. It is not to his contemporary experience that he looked, however, but back to his Moroccan journey twenty years earlier, a time that evidently remained as vivid in his mind as when he had first travelled there. His diaries and sketchbooks provide ample evidence of the effect this had on his art, and even in his last great North African subject, Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains of 1863 (Washington, National Gallery) he has masterfully employed this experience to great advantage.