The Motion of Delacroix

When I first saw the paintings of Eugène Delacroix I was struck by the sense of movement and action within the scenes he painted. In his work The Barque of Dante I could imagine the bodies of the people grabbing the boat writhing in the dark water while man in the red hood stumbles back from the trubulence.

This sense of action was something that needed the sense of perspective to mature in art before it could come to fruition. The portrayal of action, for me, seemed drastically different from the beginning of the renaissance to the end of it as the idea of perspective was utilized more by artists. The angle and position of body parts in Delacroix’s paintings give the movement of his characters depth into the painting rather than movement confined only laterally from left to right.  This can be seen if we compare the movement seen in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam where the movement is more confined to left and right. However, Michelangelo may have been one of the first painters to begin practicing the sense of depth movement that Delacroix seems to have mastered.

Delacroix seemed to be the first painter we have studied most adept at using motion to elicit emotion. This is most evident in arguably his most famous work Liberty Leading the People where we see lady liberty rising above the chaos and death with the flag clutched in hand; raising it above the smoke of gunfire. This image invokes, even now as it must have in Delacroix’s time, a sense of national pride and honor. The emotion conveyed in the crowd’s and Lady Liberty’s arms risen to the sky gives a sense of victory through a level of technique of motion and perspective that Delacroix has seemed to perfect.  This painting also supports my claim of Delacroix as a great master at “depth movement.” The young boy beside lady liberty gives a sense of his movement literally toward the viewer as he takes his first step over the rubble.

Delacroix’s painting The Prisoner of Chillon portrays the artist’s great use of light in his paintings. Delacroix’s scene in this artwork almost makes the eyes of the viewer adjust to the dark light as if they were in the gloomy prison cell itself. The light convincingly creates shadows in the muscles of the prisoner as it portrays a sense of strain and anguish to the viewer. This again is Delacroix’s adept skill at using motion to convey emotion as we begin to empathize with the pain and struggle of the prisoner.

Motion in art becomes a major factor in modern art. Matisse’s La Danse centers around the motion of the women Jackson Pollock takes breaks down motion in art down to its visceral distillation; the simple motion of his brush to create his masterpieces such as The Blue Poles. Delacroix simply put these techniques on the map and solidified their utility in art.

The Orangery

The house of the Queen

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