Paul Delaroche Paintings and Biography
Delaroche was a Painter and sculptor, son of Gregoire-Hippolyte Delaroche. Though he was offered a post in the Bibliotheque Nationale by his uncle, Adrien-Jacques Joly, Delaroche was determined to become an artist. As his brother Jules-Hippolyte was then studying history painting with David, his father decided that Paul should take up landscape painting, and in 1816 he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts to study under Louis-Etienne Watelet (1780-1866). Having competed unsuccessfully for the Prix de Rome for landscape painting, Delaroche left Watelet’s studio in 1817 and worked for a time with Constant-Joseph Desbordes (1761-1827).
In 1818 he entered the studio of Antoine-Jean Gros, where his fellow pupils included Richard Parkes Bonington, Eugene Lami and Camille Roqueplan.
Delaroche made his debut at the Salon in 1822 with his painting Christ Descended from the Cross (1822; Paris, Pal. Royale, Chapelle) and Jehosheba Saving Joash (1822; Troyes, Mus. B.-A. & Archeol.). The latter Delaroche paintings clearly showed the influence of Gros, and it was greatly praised by Gericault. At the same Salon, Delacroix exhibited Dante and Virgil in Hell (1822; Paris, Louvre), a highly influential painting, which could be said to mark the arrival of Romanticism in Paris, challenging the dominance of Neo-classicism. Delaroche’s response to this conflict of influences was to steer a course between the two currents, unwilling to opt for full-blooded Romanticism for fear of jeopardizing his public standing. Such a compromise can be seen in one of his entries for the Salon of 1824, Joan of Arc in Prison (1824; Rouen, Mus. B.-A.; sketch and reduced replica, London, Wallace), and it was the distinguishing feature of his subsequent paintings.
In 1828 Delaroche exhibited his painting Death of Queen Elizabeth, the first of a series of paintings from English history that traded on the growing French interest in English culture; this Delaroche painting established the artist’s reputation. Centred upon the very masculine figure of the dying Queen, the painting’s obsessive attention to details, such as the rendering of different rich materials, creates a grotesque contrast between the shrivelled, haggard monarch and her resplendent surroundings.
In 1830 Delaroche was commissioned to paint the Storming of the Bastille, a large and important oil painting for the Hotel de Ville (destroyed when the Hotel was burnt down during the Commune in 1871).
Delaroche is best known today for his painting “The Young Martyr”, in the collection of the Louvre, Paris.