From the very beginnings of his career as an artist, Delacroix was regarded as the leader in the French Romantic School of art. His work was as far from that of Ingres, another famous artist of the day, as they could possibly be. Whereas Ingres followed in the footsteps of Classical works of art, Delacroix was fascinated by more contemporary painters such as Rubens and other Renaissance painters. It was them he followed instead of the growing Neoclassical movement.
One of Delacroix’s most famous pieces, and one of the most famous works of the period as well, is his Lady Leady The People. This work was done in commemoration of the July Revolution in 1830 which lead to King Charles X being ousted from power. It is Delacroix’s Romantic style that truly brings this piece to life. Liberty stand atop a pile of bodies both in French military uniforms and in the dress of the common people who lead the revolt. She is both an allegorical figure, harking back to the goddess figure of Liberty, but at the same time just another figure in the painting, a strong, working class woman who is no different than the other revolutionaries.
The smoke hasn’t yet settled from the mayhem of battle, nearly blocking the view of the city in the distance entirely. The Revolutionaries still carry their weapons aloft. Liberty looks back, seeming to rally them as they march straight towards the viewer. It’s a moment of action that we have walked in on, something akin to the snapping of a photograph. It is also the same thing which the Impressionists make use of in nearly all of their works.
Delacroix did more than found a new school of art. He ushered in a new one, a small Avant-Garde movement that would grow into one of the most beloved genres of art of all time. The Impressionists were directly influenced by Delacroix, often looking to his moment of action snapshot like paintings and the loose, flowing brush strokes that covered his canvases.
Another painting of Delacroix’s is a portrait titled The Mad Woman. A middle age woman is depicted in this painting against a black background. Her dark clothing and black hair meld into one another and the background until they are nearly indistinguishable from one another. Her wide, wild eyes look up and to the right at something the viewer cannot see and we are made to wonder if what she is looking at is really there at all. Again we can see the momentariness of the painting. The woman doesn’t acknowledge our presence. It is as if we are somehow spying on her from afar.Delacroix was a giant of a painter in his time. He defined a new school of art, the Romantic School, which would come to dominate the early 1800s. But Delacroix did more than that. He inspired the next generation to take his work and expound upon it. The Impressionists wouldn’t have been what they were without Delacroix’s first foray into art in its more modern form.