The French painter Eugéne Delacroix (1799 – 1863) is the maximum expression of revolutionary painting and romantic art. Although if you read his diaries, you would discover that he was a character who would not have liked that label excessively or the qualification of an almost fanatical rebel. Actually, he was a person with a quite complex character, who throughout his life was interested in multiple and varied issues. However, his attitude of confrontation with the norms of the most academic art, if that makes him a revolutionary artistically speaking, in addition to the fact that his political ideas were also very close to the ideals generated with the French Revolution.
Delacroix's Arabian Fantasy
Delacroixdetested the taste for paintings with a Greek and Roman atmosphere typical of the art ofNeoclassicism, represented by painters such as Davidand his emblematic work The Oath of the Horatii. Neither the theme attracted him, nor the constant imitation of classical sculptures, nor the importance given to the precision of the drawing and the almost archaeological representations.
In fact, his pictorial references were notNicolas PoussinorRaphaelas they were for more academic painters. Instead he admired the Venetian painting and the baroque works of Rubens.
In response to the high culture and Greco-Latin passion that invaded the most official art of France, he decided to take a completely different path and traveled to Morocco. He where he painted countless watercolors such as the Courtyard of Tangier and many sketches that would serve as inspiration for some of his masterpieces such as the famous Massacre of Chios.
During that trip he was fascinated by the colors of North Africa and by the exotic and orientalizing atmosphere he breathed there, where he made this work of Arabic Fantasy from 1832 that can now be seen at the Fabre Museum in the French city of Montpellier.
If we compare this painting with the previous works of neoclassical style, it can be seen that everything is radically opposite. To begin with, the composition is not governed by a forced balance. Neither is there any precision in the drawing, nor in the contours of the figures. Of course it's not a moralizing, patriotic, or even edifying theme.
The only thing that Delacroix was looking for with this image was to capture the movement, and make the spectators participate in it. Delight yourself with the gallop of the Arab cavalry, with all its strength and vigor, represented especially in the thoroughbred horse on two legs that rears up in the foreground of the scene. In short, it is a painting that contains all the prototypical elements of the art of Romanticism. In other words, everything is dominated by color, movement and the air of exoticism thatthe artists of this artistic current liked them so much.