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DelacroixsInfluenceontheImpressionistsandNeoImpressionists:

TheUseandStudyofColorTheory

DeanSansovichHon205Prof.ZurawskiFinalPaper
10June2014

SundayAfternoonontheIslandofLaGrandeJatte
GeorgesSeurat188485OilonCanvas

LionHunt
EugneDelacroix1861OilonCanvas

DelacroixsInfluenceontheImpressionistsandNeoImpressionists:
TheUseandStudyofColorTheory
Aseverythingelseinthemodernworld,arthasevolvedovertimethroughdevelopments
incountlessvariables,includingscience,style,technique,theme,andevensocietalchange.Just
asitwouldbeimpossibletoinvent,orevenimaginetheiPhoneonlyacoupleofyearsafterthe
telegraph,itwouldbejustasimpossibleforanartisttocreateaCubistpaintingsuchasPicassos
LesDemoisellesDAvignon
afteronlyexperiencingMichelangelo's
TheCreationofAdam
.
Theremustbelinksfrommovementtomovementaprogression.Becauseartisaproductof
man,itisthereforeessentialthatcertainfiguresplayimportantrolesintheevolutionaryprocess.
FortheImpressionistmovement,oneoftheinfluenceswasthegreatRomanticpainterEugne
Delacroix.Hisfreeformbrushstrokesandstudyofcolortheorywereundoubtedlyadmiredand
emulatedbyimpressionistartists.
EugneDelacroixwasaFrenchpainterwholivedbetween17981863.Asanaristocrat,
Delacroixwasbothintellectualandwellcultured.Infact,hecountedamonghisfriendssuch
menasVictorHugo,Stendahl,TheophileGautier,AlexandreDumas,CharlesBaudelaire,[and]
Chopin.1Throughouthisfortyyearcareerasanartist,Delacroixcompletedsixthousand
drawings,fifteenhundredwatercolorsandpastels,andnearlyonethousandpaintings.2Delacroix
wasaproductoftheperpetualrevolutionaryspiritinFranceinthe18thcentury,inthesensethat
herevoltedagainstclassicismandthestyleoftheoldmasters.Hedidthisthroughasuddenand

Rood,Ogden.Pref.,introd.,andcommentarynotesbyFaberBirren.
ModernChromaticsStudents'TextBookof
Color,:withApplicationstoArtandIndustry.
NewYork:VanNostrandReinholdCo,1973,20.
2
TheArtInstituteofChicago,LoanExhibitionofPaintings,WaterColors,DrawingsandPrintsbyEugne
Delacroix(March20,1930):1,accessedJune7,2014,5.

bolduseofcolorandfreehandlingofstyle[creating]anewtrend,which,thoughbitterly
attacked,helpedtochangethecourseofFrenchart.3
Delacroixdidnotjustdecidetousemorecolorinordertobedifferenthisapproach
wasmuchmoreintellectualandscientificthanthat.Delacroixbecameastudentofcolorby
studyingthechemistMichelEugneChevreul.Atonepointinhiscareer,Chevreulwasthe
DirectorofDyeingatthetapestryworksinGobelin.Whenissueswiththecolorsarose,he
determinedthattheproblemwasnotchemical,butoptical.Hisresearchintothesubjectledhim
todevelopetheLawofSimultaneousContrast,whichstatesthat
coloursmutuallyinfluenceone
anotherwhenjuxtaposed,eachimposingitsowncomplementarycolourontheother.
In1839,
hepublishedhisfindingsin
Delaloiducontrastesimultandescouleurs
.4Delacroixstudied
Chevreulstreatiseandevenconductedsomeofthechemistsexperimentsonhisown.Infact,
whenDelacroixdied,overthirtyfivepagesofnotesoncolortheorywerefoundamonghis
possessions.
Further,
EugneDelacroixmadeseveraltripstoNorthAfrica,specificallyMorocco.The
landscapeandcultureinthisregionwerevastlydifferentfromDelacroixsParis.Thus,hewas
exposedtothrillingnewhuesandcolorcombinations.This,alongwithChevreulsinfluence,led
DelacroixtoarriveathisTheoryofComplements.HeoncestatedThegenerallaw:themore
contrast,themorebrilliance.More,Delacroixdevelopedadisdainfortheabsenceofcolor:the
useofblack.Departingfromtheoldmasters,Delacroixinsistedonaddingdeepbluesorpurples,
forexample,whendarkening,opposedtoblack.

Rood,
ModernChromatics
,20.
EncyclopdiaBritannicaOnline
,s.v."MichelEugeneChevreul",accessedJune07,2014

Inadditiontostudyingwhichcolorstopairagainstandwitheachother,Delacroix
adoptedatechniqueofbrokenupbrushstrokesfromtheEnglishpainterJohnConstable.5This
allowedDelacroixtodifferhisuseofcolorandstyleevenmorefromtheoldmasters.
Previously,painterswouldsmoothlyblendcolorstogethertoachieveaneven,seamless
transitionfromonecolortothenext.Delacroix,ontheotherhand,beganapplyingsmall,
separate,andsubtlydifferentstrokesofcolornexttooneanother.Thiscreatedatransitionof
colorwhichwasgradualbutalsodefinite.Thecolorswouldnotbeblendedtogether,butinstead
aftertakingasteportwoawayfromthepaintingtheviewerseyeswoulddotheblending.
Thework
LionHunt
paintedbyEugneDelacroixneartheendofhislifesurelyexhibits
acultivatedunderstandingofcolorandawelldevelopedsenseoftechniqueandstyle.
LionHunt
isanoiloncanvas,wascompletedin1861,andpresentlyhangsintheArtInstituteofChicago.
Thepaintingisthefinalworkdoneinaseriesofimagesallwiththesametheme.Delacroixwas
commissionedbytheStatetopaintacanvasfortheExpositionUniverselleof1855thesubject
wasleftforDelacroixtodecide.6InfluencedbyhisvisitstoNorthAfricaaswellasRubens
Hunts
(discussedinDelacroixs
Journal
),theFrenchpainterchosethesubject
LionHunt
.7In
regardstocompositionfortheproject,Delacroixdiscussedthat:
Theeffectoftheprincipallinesonacompositionisimmense.IhavebeforemeRubens
Hunts
oneamongothers,theone
forlions
....Therearinghorsesandbristlingmanes,a
thousandprops,thedetachedshieldsandtwistedbridles,allmadeinordertostrikethe
imagination.Butthewholeisconfused,theeyedoesnotknowwheretofocus,thereisa
feelingofdreadfulchaos...
TheLionHunt
,itisalwayscastintothesameuncertaintyof
8
lines.

TheArtInstituteofChicago,LoanExhibitionbyEugneDelacroix,10.
BarthlmyJobert,
Delacroix
(Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress,1997),266.
7
Ibid,264.
8
Ibid.
6

TheauthorBarthlmyJobertconcludesthatitwasDelacroixsintenttocreateapaintingthatis
unifiedwithmovementandvariety.
First,Delacroixcompletedalargepaintedsketchin1854whichseeminglyaccomplished
theeffectshewastryingtoobtain.ThecommissionedpaintingthatstartedDelacroixs
Lion
Hunt
serieswasfinishedfortheExpositionin1855,butwaslostinafireinBordeauxin1870.9
Delacroixreceivedratherintensecriticismatthe1855Expositiontherefore,subsequent
Lion
Hunts
canbeseen,notsomuchascontinuationsoftheseries,butasreworkings.Afterthe
Exposition,criticsexclaimedIf...thereconciliationoforderandmovementisthenecessary
conditionforanytrulybeautifulworkofart,
TheLionHunt
possessesnoneoftheelementsof
beautyanditisavast,coloredwordpuzzleinwhichitisimpossibletofindtheword....
Here,colorreachesitshighestlevelofextravagance.Further,hiscompositionwasreferredtoas
incomprehensible.10
Delacroixthencompletedtwomorevariationsof
LionHunt
,onein1856andonein
1858,beforehebeganthefinalworkofthecampaignin1860theversionattheChicagoArt
Institute(Hereafterreferredtoas
LionHunt
).Itisbelievedthat
LionHunt
wascommissioned
byanartdealer,becausetheonlymentionedofitinhis
Journal
wasthesaleprice.11
LionHunt
depictsasceneofintensefury,whenagroupofeightmenwithtwohorsesattempttokilltwoof
naturesmostdangerousbeasts.Themen,armedwithacombinationofspearsandswords,
engageinhandtohandcombatwiththelions.Ahorseisgroundedontopofaman,oneisdead,
andanotheristrappedbeneathalion.Whilesurelythearmedmenwhooutnumbertheanimals

Ibid.
Ibid,265.
11

ArletteSrullazetal.,
Delacroix:TheLateWorks
,ed.JaneWatkins(NewYork:ThamesandHudsonInc.,1998),
265.
10

comeoutvictorious,thesceneindicatesthatthebattlewasnotwoneasily.PerhapsDelacroixis
makingacommentontheevercomplicatedrelationshipbetweenmanandbeast.
ComparedtothelargepaintingdonefortheExhibitionof1855,Delacroixs
LionHunt
of
1861depictsthesamescene,butthecompositionisdifferent.Inthereworking,thepartsofthe
imagearemuchmorespreadoutthanintheoriginal,whichappearedcrowded.Additionally,
Delacroixisabletocapturethefiguresmovementmoresuccessfullythisisbecause
Delacroixpreparedforthepaintingbymakingsystematicstudiesoffiguregroupings.12
LionHunt
exemplifiesDelacroixsstyle,andcanevenbeseenashislifeworkmanifesto
tothecritics.Hissignaturefreehandbrushstrokesrunrampantthroughtheimageaswellashis
bolduseofcolor.Thecircularplacementofthefiguresresembleaviolentcyclone.Amongthe
firstthingstheviewernoticeswouldsurelybethebright,deepbluesofthesky,andtheintensely
contrastingredsandgreens.Itwouldmakesensethatanimagewithsuchanintensesubject
matterwouldhaveanequallyintenseopticaleffect.ColorforDelacroixwascertainlyatoolused
toimproveandintensifythevisualexperience.
FollowingDelacroixsdeath,theSocitNationaleDesBeauxArtsheldaretrospective
exhibitin1863.Manyartistsoftheperiodattendedtogivehomagetothegreatfrenchpainter.In
fact,itisbelievedthatfutureimpressionists,namelyManet,wereabletoexperienceDelacroixs
workinthisposthumoussetting.13Consequently,shortlyfollowingtheRomanticpaintersdeath
emergedthisnewandcontroversialartisticmovementthatwouldlaterbecalled
Impressionism.TheimpressionistsadoptedmanyofthetechniquesDelacroixdevelopedover
hislifetime.Tonameafew,theseincludeanemphasisoncomplementarycolorschemes,theuse
12

Ibid,266

ColinHarrison."Delacroix,Eugne."
GroveArtOnline
.
OxfordArtOnline
.OxfordUniversityPress,accessedJune
7,2014,
13

ofsmallbrokenstrokesofanalogouscolorstoreplaceblending,andtheavoidanceofblack.
Whileitiseasytosaythatmost,ifnotallimpressionistswereinfluencedbyDelacroix,
particularlyRenoirandMonet,onecansaywithoutadoubtthattheNeoImpressionistswere
mostinfluencedbyhim.TheImpressionistscertainlyimplementedDelacroixsstudyofcolor
theoryandemulatedhisbrushtechniquehowever,theNeoImpressionistsweremuchmore
intellectualandacademicintheirapproach.FaberBirrenindicatesinhiscommentaryin
Modern
Chromatics
thatNeoImpressionismreliedheavilyonintellectualeffort.Scienceevenmore
thannaturewastobestudiedformanysecrets.TheImpressionists,onthecontrary,werenever
notedforscholarshipormentalapplication.14Forexample,thefatherofNeoImpressionism,
GeorgesSeurat,studiedRoods
Thoriescientifiquedescouleurs
afterreadingaboutitin
Figaro
magazine.15NeoImpressionistPaulSignachighlightsDelacroixsinfluenceinhisbooktitled
DEugneDelacroixauNeoImpressionisme
,or
FromEugneDelacroixtoNeoImpressionism
.
Withinthefirstfewpagesofthebook,SignaclinksDelacroixtotheNeoImpressionist
movementandevenreferstoDelacroixasanauthoritativeGenius.PaulSignacwrites:
Avantd'allerplusloin,invoquonsl'autoritdegniehautetclaird'EugneDelacroix:les
rglesdecouleur,deligneetdecompositionquenousvenonsd'nonceretquirsument
ledivision,ontpromulguesparlegrandpeintre.ontpromulguesparlegrand
peintre.Nousallonsreprendreuneaunetouteslespartiesdel'esthtiqueetdela
techniquedesnoimpressionnistespuisenlescomparantauxlignescritessureles
mmequestionsparEugeneDelacroixdansseslettres,sesarticles,etdanslestrois
volumesdesonjournal...nousmontreronsquecespeintresnefontquesuivre
l'enseignementdumatreetcontinuersesrecherches.16

14

Rood,
ModernChromatics
,39
Ibid.
16
Signac,Paul.
D'EugeneDelacroixAuNeoImpressionnismePrimarySourceEdition(FrenchEdition)
.Paris:Nabu
Press,2014,5.
15

SignacclearlyindicatesanimportantrelationshipbetweentheNeoImpressionistsand
Delacroix.
WhendiscussingNeoImpressioniststyleandtheuseofcolortheory,itisessentialto
considerSeuratsmasterwork
ASundayAfternoonontheIslandofLaGrandeJatte
attheArt
InstituteofChicago.Seuratbeganworkingonhisopusin1884however,thefinishingtouches
werenotaddedtotheoiloncanvasuntil1889.Duringthisfiveyearperiod,Seuratcompleted
severalcampaignsinpreparationforthelargefinalpainting.Theamountoftimededicatedto
La
GrandeJatte
indicatesascientific,trialanderrorapproachbySeurat.Thefirststudyhasmuch
lessnoticeabledepthoffieldthanthefinalversion.Additionally,thebackgroundis
oversimplifiedandtherearefarfewershadowsthaninthefinal.ThenextstudySeurat
completedwasafocusontheforegroundtitled
LadywithaMonkey
.Theartistsinterestinthis
studyistheprofileandcolorofthelady,theangleofherumbrella,andtheperspectiveofthe
trees.17Seuratsfinalstudy,
AnAfternoonatLaGrandeJatte
,showscontrastbetweenlightand
darktonesandhues.Thefinalwork,
ASundayAfternoonontheIslandofLaGrandeJatte
,is
muchmorerefinedthanSeuratspreparatoryworks.Additionally,itisimportanttonotethatthe
sizeofthefinalversion(81x120``)issubstantiallylargerthanthepreliminaryworkstherefore,
thecampaignshelpedSeuratdefinehiscolorusageandfigures,buttheydidnotnecessarily
providedirectpracticeforthefinal.
ASundayAfternoonontheIslandofLaGrandeJatte
depictsasceneofleisurealongthe
SeineriveroutsideParis.Therearevarioustypesofpeopleinthepainting:childrenplayingin
thegrass,amanlayingdownsmokingapipeintheshade,andmanywomenunderumbrellasto

17

Courthion,Pierre.
MastersofArt:Seurat
.Noted.NewYork:HarryN.Abrams,1988,78.

protectfromthesun.Andmostnoticeably,asSeurathimselfdescribed,ayoungdandywitha
ratherexcessivelyelegantladyonhisarmwhohasayellow,purple,andultramarinemonkeyon
aleash.18IntheSeine,oneseesrowers,sailboats,andasteamshipheadingtowardParis.
WhatismostimportantaboutSeurats
ASundayAfternoonontheIslandofLaGrande
Jatte
isnotsomuch
what
hepainted,but
how
hepaintedit.Heusedthestyleofpointillismto
applythetheoryofopticalmixturebydividingtones.19Heachievedthistechniquebyapplying
smallhorizontalbrushstrokesofcomplementarycolors.Then,hewouldaddsmalldotsof
complementarycolors.Thisgavetheimpressionofasolid,radiantimagewhenseenfroma
distance.ThisissurelyaparamountexampleofwhatSignacmentionsin
DEugneDelacroix
auNeoImpressionisme
asdividingcolors.ItisevidentthatSeuratgavemuchthoughttothe
useofcolorinhispainting,notunlikeDelacroix.WhileSeuratsuseofcomplementarycolors
wasinpartinfluencedbytheRomanticpaintersTheoryofComplements,itisevidentthat
SeurattookDelacroixsfindingstothenextlevelwiththedevelopmentofhisownstyleof
Pointillism.
WhileDelacroixsinfluenceontheImpressionistsandNeoImpressionistsisundeniable,
itiscrucialtomakeclearthattherehavebeeninnumerableartistswhoseworkwasimmensely
impactfulonthegrouptogivecreditonlytoDelacroixwouldbeunjust.Forexample,the
EnglishlandscapepainterWilliamTurnerstechniqueanduseofcolorwasasourceof
inspirationforthenewartmovement.OgdenRoodsbookpublishedin1879,
Modern
Chromatics,withApplicationtoArtandIndustry
aswellasChevreulstreatisewerereadbylate
ImpressionistsandNeoImpressionists.EvenJapaneseprintshadeffectsonImpressioniststyle.

18

Courthion,
Seurat
,82.
Ibid.

19

Hundredsofyearspriortothemovement,RenaissanceartistLeonardodaVinciexperimented
andwroteaboutmixingsimpleandcomplexcolors.Havingsaidthis,Delacroixspositionin
timeandgeographyallowedhimtobealinkfromtheartisticfindingsofthepasttotheartistic
movementsofthefuture.

WorksCited

ColinHarrison."Delacroix,Eugne."
GroveArtOnline
.
OxfordArtOnline
.OxfordUniversity
Press,accessedJune7,2014,
http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T021888.

Courthion,Pierre.
MastersofArt:Seurat
.Noted.NewYork:HarryN.Abrams,1988.

EncyclopdiaBritannicaOnline
,s.v."MichelEugeneChevreul",accessedJune07,2014,
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/109883/MichelEugeneChevreul
.

Jobert,Barthlmy.
Delacroix
.Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress,1997.

Rood,Ogden.Pref.,introd.,andcommentarynotesbyFaberBirren.
ModernChromatics
Students'TextBookofColor,:withApplicationstoArtandIndustry.
NewYork:Van
NostrandReinholdCo,1973.

Srullaz,Arlette,VincentPomarede,JosephJ.Rishel,LeeJohnson,LouisAntoinePrat,and
DavidLiot.
Delacroix:TheLateWorks
.EditedbyJaneWatkins.NewYork:Thamesand
HudsonInc.,1998.

Signac,Paul.
D'EugeneDelacroixAuNeoImpressionnismePrimarySourceEdition(French
Edition)
.Paris:NabuPress,2014.

TheArtInstituteofChicago.LoanExhibitionofPaintings,WaterColors,DrawingsandPrints
byEugneDelacroix.(March20,1930):1.AccessedJune7,2014