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3.9 Delacroix’s early career – exercise

Exercise 3

In order to sum up your work on this section, jot down some notes on how Delacroix's early career might be seen as moving away from a respect for the classical tradition and for the reason and order demanded of classical composition.


Delacroix’s early education and training were dominated by the classical tradition. When he began to exhibit works at the Salon, he retained some aspects of classical composition (order, symmetry, the use of academic nudes). However, he worked within a tradition of Baroque classicism, which made him stand out from the neoclassicists of his age, and as the Baroque aspects of his work intensified, he became vulnerable to the charge of abandoning what was seen as a correct or pure form of the classical for Romanticism.

Clearly, there came a point at which Baroque classicism redefined itself, in the eyes of contemporaries, as Romanticism. This was because, as a style, it became associated with a host of ideas about artistic creativity and about the role of art in the broader culture. Like Goethe’s Faust, Delacroix’s painting seems to transcend the classic-Romantic divide. In the next section we shall look at the reasons why Delacroix’s contemporaries placed him in the Romantic camp.