Sunday, January 03, 2010

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #13 - Royal Tiger

Royal Tiger (Tigre Royal), 1829, Eugène Delacroix, Lithograph, second state of four; image: 12 15/16 x 18 7/16 in. (32.8 x 46.9 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Eugène Delacroix could be considered the most important of the French Romantic painters. He also was born in a wealthy and educated family. This was an advantage he had throughout his illustrious career. He was trained in the classical tradition by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin who followed in the footsteps of David. Delacroix was more connected to contemporary writers such as the poet Lord Byron. He was attracted to literary subjects and used them as subjects for his paintings. His first work presented at the Salon of 1822 was Dante and Virgil and was inspired by the epic poem The Divine Comedy.

One of my personal favorites of Delacroix is the emotional and dramatic painting, The Death of Sardanapualus, which resides at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Last king of Nineveh has learned of the fall of his kingdom into enemy hands, and he orders all of his property (including his concubines) be destroyed. He watches with a certain distance, and yet there is a melancholy air to the King. This painting epitomizes the Romantic movement, full of color, richness, passion and the message that man is not in control, not even kings.

Far off exotic places were favorites of the Romanticists, and Delacroix took a trip to North Africa in 1832 which had a tremendous impact on his art. The exotic costumes, people, geography and wild life caught his attention and he produced thousands of oil paintings, pastels, watercolors, lithographs, drawings and sketches.

Royal Tigeris a lithograph. Lithograph comes from the Greek for stone (litho) and mark (graph). The artist draws on a stone with a greasy crayon. When the stone is inked, it bonds to the crayon and is repelled by the damp, clean stone that surround the image. Romanticists liked lithography because it was a direct method of working, drawing directly onto the stone, and allowed a spontaneous working method.

Delacroix was very interested in not only horses, but also lions and tigers. However, this drawing was based on his observations of a dead tiger treated through taxidermy, not a living tiger in the wild. He did, however, attempt to illustrate the tiger as if he was seeing it in its natural habitat. There is no narrative to this scene; you see the tiger in great detail and see the light variations on its coat. Lions and tigers appealed to the romanticists as they were exotic - they were, after all, powerful animals that man had no control over except if hunted. Delacroix was interested in going beyond man's ideas and liked to imagine the world through the eyes of the wild animal believing that it would enable him to have greater understanding of not just the animal's primitive nature, but man's as well.

Self-Portrait, Oil Paint, Eugene Delacroix, 1837, 21.26 inch wide x 25.59 inch high

No comments: