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10 Best paintings by Eugène Delacroix

One of the most iconic artists of French history, Eugène Delacroix is the author of many important paintings such as “Liberty Leading the People”, considered today one of the symbols of France. For those visiting Paris, you can easily see his artworks, as Delacroix is the author with the largest number of paintings exhibited in the Louvre. Here is a list of the best paintings by Eugène Delacroix.

Eugène Delacroix stands as one of the most iconic figures in the history of French painting. A leading figure of the Romantic movement, Delacroix’s art is characterized by its emotional intensity, vivid colors, and dramatic compositions. Today, he is celebrated as one of the greatest French painters of all time.

A significant part of Delacroix’s impressive body of work is housed in the Louvre Museum, a testament to the enduring impact and recognition of his artistic genius. 

His masterpieces, such as “Liberty Leading the People” and “The Death of Sardanapalus,” are showcased in this renowned institution, inviting visitors to experience the power and innovation of his creations.

As we go through the list of the most famous artwork of Eugene Delacroix, we’ll witness the brilliance of an artist whose legacy has transcended centuries, captivating audiences with his timeless artistry and influencing generations of artists through centuries. 

Eugene Delacroix Biography

Eugène Delacroix stands as one of the most important figures in French Romanticism, known for his innovative approach to color, dynamic compositions, and emotionally charged themes.

Born in Charenton-Saint-Maurice, France, Delacroix initially studied under Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, a neoclassical painter. However, his inclination toward vibrant colors and dramatic scenes set him apart from the neoclassical tradition. Delacroix’s early exposure to the works of Rubens and Venetian Renaissance painters also influenced his artistic development.

His travels to North Africa in 1832 left a profound mark on his art. The vibrant colors, exotic landscapes, and the cultural richness of the region inspired many of his later works, even decades after his return. Paintings like “The Women of Algiers in their Apartment” and “The Sultan of Morocco” showcase the influence of his North African experiences.

One of Delacroix’s most iconic paintings is “Liberty Leading the People” (1830). Created to commemorate the July French Revolution of 1830, the painting features the allegorical figure of Liberty leading a group of revolutionaries over the barricades. It symbolizes the pursuit of freedom.

Delacroix was drawn to various themes, including historical and literary subjects. His works often explored intense emotions, violence, and heroism. He depicted scenes from mythology, literature, and history, showcasing a range of subjects such as battles, executions, and mythical tales.

His contributions to the art world extend beyond his paintings; Delacroix’s ideas and techniques had a profound impact on later artists like the Impressionists. His legacy endures as a key figure in the Romantic movement, celebrated for his passionate and innovative approach to art.

Best paintings by Eugène Delacroix

Liberty Leading the People, the most famous painting by Delacroix.

1. Liberty Leading the People (1830)

Definitely, the most famous painting by Delacroix. You have probably already seen it in documentaries or even schoolbooks. 

“Liberty Leading the People” is a symbol of the French Revolution and indeed, Delacroix created this masterpiece to commemorate the French Revolution of 1830, portraying the allegorical figure of Liberty, personified as a woman, leading the people forward, during the uprising that resulted in the overthrow of King Charles X of France. 

The painting symbolizes the fight for freedom, embodies the spirit of revolution, and celebrates the triumph of the people over oppressive regimes. Its significance lies in its powerful depiction of liberty and its impact as an iconic piece in French history and art, showcasing both artistic brilliance and political symbolism.

After being sold a couple of times, the French Government bought the painting in 1874, and was put on display at the Louvre Museum, where it is now one of the Louvre masterpieces and a national symbol of France. 

🎨Where to see the Liberty Leading the People: Louvre Museum, Paris.

 The Death of Sardanapalus one of the best paintings by Eugène Delacroix, and a ust see painting at the Louvre Museum.
source:profzucker / Flickr

2. The Death of Sardanapalus (1827)

The painting depicts the last moments of the Assyrian king Sardanapalus, who, according to legend, chose to destroy all his possessions, including his concubines, horses, and wealth, rather than see them captured by his enemies during a siege.

Delacroix was inspired by Lord Byron’s dramatic play, which romanticized this legendary act of self-destruction. 

The painting portrays chaos, decadence, and a sense of impending doom as Sardanapalus commands the destruction around him. It’s a vivid and emotionally charged scene filled with vibrant colors and intense, theatrical energy.

“The Death of Sardanapalus” received many criticisms when it was first revealed, as many considered it amoral, going against the Neoclassical principle of depicting moral subjects. Nowadays, it is one of the best paintings by Eugène Delacroix and one of the paintings you must see in the Louvre.

🎨Where to see The Deat of Sardanapalus: Louvre Museum, Paris.

3. The Massacre at Chios (1824)

“The Massacre at Chios” portrays the devastating event of the massacre that occurred on the Greek island of Chios in 1822 during the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire.

The news of this brutal event deeply moved Delacroix and aimed to depict the suffering and tragedy faced by the Greek civilians. 

In the painting, he captures the chaos and horror as Ottoman soldiers pillage and slaughter the inhabitants, with the composition emphasizing the despair and agony of the victims.

The original painting is on display at the Louvre Museum while a copy can be seen in the Museum of Chios in Greece. 

🎨Where to see The Massacre at Chios: Louvre Museum, Paris.

The Women of Algiers in their Apartment

4. Women of Algiers in their Apartment (1834)

“The Women of Algiers in their Apartment” is part of a series of paintings inspired by Delacroix’s visit to North Africa in 1832, when he was invited to join a diplomatic trip with Charles de Mornay, a French diplomat. 

While on the trip, he met a merchant who gave Delacroix access to his harem, where the artist could make sketches of the women and the reality inside the room. With these sketches, he was able to later recreate the scene in his painting “The Women of Algiers in their Apartment”. 

The painting depicts a scene of the female quarter in an Algerian household. It showcases the lives of women secluded in their quarters. The women are depicted in a relaxed moment, sitting and chatting. They are adorned in luxurious clothing and surrounded by sumptuous textiles and objects that evoke the exotic and opulent nature of the setting.

The painting captures the allure of the Orient while presenting a glimpse into the secluded lives of Algerian women, as perceived through a Western lens of that era.

🎨Where to see the Women of Algiers in their Apartment: Louvre Museum, Paris.

The Barque of Dante

5. The Barque of Dante (1822)

Delacroix was only twenty-four when he painted “The Barque of Dante”, considered to be his first major painting and the first of his artworks to be displayed in a Salon to the public. 

In this masterpiece, Delacroix crosses the border of the then-popular Neoclassicism, to Romanticism.  

The painting was inspired by Dante Alighieri’s epic poem “The Divine Comedy”, and depicts a scene from canto eight of Dante’s Inferno poem, where Dante and his guide, the poet Virgil, cross the River Styx in Charon’s boat, traversing through the torments of Hell. 

The central focus is on the anguished figures of Dante and Virgil amidst the chaos and suffering of the damned souls condemned to eternal torment.

“The Barque of Dante” is one of the most famous paintings by Delacroix. 

🎨Where to see The Barque of Dante: Louvre Museum, Paris.

 Orphan Girl at the Cemetery

6  Orphan Girl at the Cemetery (1823)

“Orphan Girls at the Cemetery” is believed to be a training oil painting for his later work “The Massacre at Chios”. It ended up becoming one of the most famous paintings of Delacroix. 

It depicts a hopeless girl, looking apprehensively upward, she seems to be lying on the ground, and her melancholic expression alongside her body language (hand lying weakly on her thigh) evokes a sense of vulnerability. 

The mystery of the painting lies in the colors chosen by Delacroix, despite being bright, they are still very sober, which adds a sense of sorrow to the melancholic image. 

🎨Where to see the Orphan Girl at the Cemetery: Louvre Museum, Paris.

Jewish Wedding in Morocco

7. Jewish Wedding in Morocco (1839)

This is another painting influenced by Delacroix’s visit to North Africa with the diplomatic party. 

“Jewish Wedding in Morocco” was painted years after his trip, based on his notes and his memory of a Jewish Wedding he had the chance to attend when visiting Morocco. 

The scene focuses on the celebration after the formal wedding, with musicians playing, in the central part of the composition, and girls dancing, depicted in the corner of the image. This is a very traditional scene, as it is a Jewish costume for the guests to entertain the couple.  The women and children are sitting on one side of the image, while the men are sitting on the other side.

🎨Where to see the Jewish Wedding in Morocco: Louvre Museum, Paris.

8. Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople (1840)

The painting was commissioned by Louis-Philippe, the penultimate monarch of France. This masterpiece depicts the cruel expedition known as the Fourth Crusade when the Crusaders decided to abandon their plan of invading Muslim lands in Egypt and Jerusalem and invaded and sacked the Christian city of Constantinople instead (actual Istanbul). 

In the painting, we can see the civilians on the ground, some begging for mercy, others murdered, while the Crusaders, led by Baldwin I, enter the conquered city. 

🎨Where to see the Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople: Louvre Museum, Paris.

Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi

9. Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1826)

Delacroix was deeply moved by the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire, and this painting is his response to the tragic events in the town of Missolonghi.

In 1825, the Greeks from the long-sieges city of Missolonghi, tired of their situation, tried to escape from the city. The attempt didn’t go well and most of them were killed by the Ottomans. 

The artwork depicts a symbolic representation of the suffering and resilience of the Greek people. The central female figure, personifying Greece, is seen lying among the ruins of Missolonghi, mourning the loss and destruction. The composition is charged with emotion, emphasizing the plight of the Greeks and their struggle for independence.

🎨Where to see Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi: Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux.

The Sultan of Morocco
Le Sultan du Maroc by Eugène Delacroix

10. The Sultan of Morocco (1845) 

The number of African-themed paintings made by Delacroix is proof of the profound influence the diplomatic trip to North Africa had on him. 

The Sultan of Morocco is another painting in this collection. Painted years later, based on Delacroix’s memories. 

The painting depicts Sultan Abd al Rahman of Morocco on his horse with his servants beside him. The full title of this masterpiece is “Moulay Abd-Er-Rahman, Sultan of Morocco, leaving his palace of Meknès, surrounded by his guards and his principal officers” which is pretty self-explanatory. 

🎨Where to see The Sultan of Morocco: Musée des Augustins de Toulouse, Toulouse.

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