The Phaidon Folio

Eugène Delacroix Has the Answer to Everything: 8 Secrets to Artistic Success From the Father of French Romanticism

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Eugène Delacroix Has the Answer to Everything: 8 Secrets to Artistic Success From the Father of French Romanticism
Self Portrait, 1840 by Eugène Delacroix

As a central figure in the rise of French Romanticism in the early 1800s, Eugène Delacroix was a renowned as a painter and lithographer and well-known for his expressive use of brushstrokes, color, and movement—all of which deeply impacted the Impressionists later in the century. Charles Baudelaire astutely captued his essence when he wrote that "Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible." Below, we've chosen some of our favorite quips from this pithy painter from Phaidon's Art Is the Highest Form of Hope, a collection of clever, irreverent, and earnest quotes from art's most storied and legendary figures. Would-be artists would do well to commit these bon mots to memory—history has proven that ol' Eugene knows what he's talking about.

 

1. On the path to happiness

 

Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830Liberty Leading the People, 1830

 

"Cultivate a well-ordered mind, it’s your only road to happiness; and to reach it, be orderly in everything, even in the smallest details." – Eugène Delacroix, April 15, 1823, entry, in The Journal of Eugène Delacroix, 3rd. ed., ed. Hubert Wellington (London: Phaidon Press, 1995).

 

2. On finding balance

 

Eugene Delacroix, Combat de chevaliers dans la campagne, 1824Combat de chevaliers dans la campagne, 1824

 

"The beautiful implies a combination of many different qualities. Strength alone, without elegance, etc., is not beauty. In a single word, the broadest definition would be Harmony." – Eugène Delacroix, Undated entry, 1854, The Journal of Eugène Delacroix.

 

3. On boring paintings

 

Eugene Delacroix, Orphan Girl at the Cemetery, 1823 - 1824Orphan Girl at the Cemetery, 1823 - 1824

 

"Remember that gray is the enemy of all painting." – Eugène Delacroix, Undated entry, 1852, The Journal of Eugène Delacroix.

 

4. On finishing touches

 

Eugene Delacroix, Shipwreck on the Coast, 1862Shipwreck on the Coast, 1862

 

"One always has to spoil a picture a little in order to finish it." – Eugène Delacroix, April 13, 1853, entry, in The Journal of Eugène Delacroix.

 

5. On unoriginality

 Eugene Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus, 1844Death of Sardanapalus, 1844

 

"The new is very old; you might even say that it is the oldest thing of all." – Eugène Delacroix, June 8, 1850, entry, in The Journal of Eugène Delacroix.

 

6. On indulgence

 

Eugene Delacroix, Still Life With Lobsters, 1826 - 1827Still Life With Lobsters, 1826 - 1827

 

"I think my system of having only one meal a day certainly suits me much better." – Eugène Delacroix, October 18, 1852, entry, in The Journal of Eugène Delacroix.

 

7. On obsessions

 Eugene Delacroix, Horse Frightened by Lightning, 1825 - 1829Horse Frightened by Lightning, 1825 - 1829

 

"I really must settle down seriously to drawing horses. I shall go to some stable or other every morning; I shall go to bed early, and get up early as well." – Eugène Delacroix, April 15, 1823, entry, in The Journal of Eugène Delacroix.

 

8. On the secret to his success

 

Eugene Delacroix, The Sea from the Heights of Dieppe, 1852The Sea from the Heights of Dieppe, 1852

 

"Use short, small brushes." – Eugène Delacroix, April 1, 1824, entry, in The Journal of Eugène Delacroix.

 

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