Eugène Delacroix paintings are numbered among the greatest and most influential of French paintings. Delacroix is most often classified as an artist of the Romantic school. His remarkable use of color was later to influence impressionist painters and even modern artists such as Pablo Picasso.
Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix was born on April 26, 1798, in Charenton-St-Maurice, France. In 1815 he became the pupil of the French painter Pierre-Narcisse Guérin and began a career that would produce more than 850 oil paintings and great numbers of drawings, murals, and other works. In 1822 Delacroix submitted his first painting to the important Paris Salon exhibition: Dante and Virgil in Hell. A technique used in this painting—many unblended colors forming what at a distance looks like a unified whole—would later be used by the impressionists. His next Salon entry was in 1824: Massacre at Chios. With great vividness of color and strong emotion it pictured an incident in which 20,000 Greeks were killed by Turks on the island of Chios. The French government purchased this Delacroix painting for 6,000 francs.
Impressed by the techniques of English painters such as John Constable, Delacroix visited England in 1825. His tours of the galleries, visits to the theater, and observations of English culture in general made a lasting impression upon him.
Between 1827 and 1832 Delacroix seemed to produce one masterpiece after another. He again used historical themes in The Battle of Nancy and The Battle of Poitiers. The poetry of Lord Byron inspired a painting for the 1827 Salon, The Death of Sardanapalus. Delacroix also created a set of 17 lithographs to illustrate a French edition of Goethe’s Faust.
The French revolution of 1830 inspired the famous painting Liberty Leading the People, which was the last of Delacroix’s paintings that truly embodied the romantic ideal. Delacroix found new inspiration on a trip to Morocco in 1832. The ancient, proud, and exotic culture moved Delacroix to write “I am quite overwhelmed by what I have seen.”
In 1833 Delacroix painted a group of murals for the king’s chamber at the Palais Bourbon. He continued doing this type of painting, including panels for the Louvre and for the Museum of History at Versailles, until 1861. Much of the architectural paintings involved long hours on uncomfortable scaffolding in drafty buildings, and Delacroix's health suffered.
Delacroix died on Aug. 13, 1863, in Paris. His apartment there was made into a museum in his memory.