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Eugène Delacroix

This month is the bicentenary of the birth of Eugène Delacroix. Best remembered for his Liberty picture, what was the French painter's distinctive achievement? Historical and Marxist analyses of art remain popular but miss the point. We should see Delacroix as a purveyor of visual pleasure

By John Armstrong   May 1998

It is probably the most widely recognised, the most immediately evocative, of all pictures of revolution: a statuesque woman-dress slipping from her shoulders, tricolour raised, bayonet at the ready-leaps upon the barricade, the fighting men in her wake. “Liberty Leading the People,” 28th July 1830 (the notorious July Days) belongs to that group of images which has currency beyond the limited circles of connoisseurs and art historians. The painter, Eugène Delacroix, most renowned of the French Romantic school (although it was a title he scorned), was born near Paris 200 years ago, on 26th April 1798.

In contrast to the…

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