Delacroix started to use unmixed pure color pigment to add boldness and vibrancy to his pictures. He applied it with the swashbuckling style of D’Artagnan, avoiding the Academy’s much loved clarity of line, and concentrating more on the shimmering visual effect of having contrasting colors set against one another.
At the 1831 Salon, he presented a painting that would cause a sensation. A picture that was technically innovative, while also portraying a subject containing enough political dynamite for it to be removed from public view for over 30 years.
‘Liberty Leading the People’, painted in 1830, is now recognised as a masterpiece of the romantic era, and hangs in the Louvre in Paris.
Back 1830 though, it’s pro-republican message was thought so powerful as to be considered politically inflammatory by the French monarchy. The paintings main character is a strident woman, personifying liberty, rallying rebel fighters in the midst of battle and leading them over the bodies of the fallen.
In one hand she waves the Tricolore flag of the French Revolution and the other she grips a bayonetted musket.
The scene alludes to the overthrow of the last Bourbon King Charles 10th, who had been an enthusiastic collector of Delacroix art in July 1830, an event about which the politically cunning Delacroix clearly took sides, writing in a letter to his brother, I have undertaken the modern subject of barricade, and although I may not have faught for my country at least I shall have painted for her.
Much thanks to Will Gompertz’s book What Are You Looking At….some of the blog is directly taken from this fantastic book.