Liberty Leading the People (Day 49: 365 Days of Art) Delacroix

Hello blog readers.  For Day 49 of the 365 Days of Art, I present Liberty Leading the People from Delacroix.


Five things about Delacroix and/or this piece:

  1.  Delacroix was a French artist and he made this painting in about three months (September through sometime in December of 1830).  He did extensive underdrawings and then painted the piece as a response to the Three Glorious Days riot that happened in July 1830, when the people of France stood up to the monarchy. King Charles X implemented a constitutional takeover and it angered the people for the final time – the straw that broke the camel’s back – and so the people of Paris turned against the King and a bloody battle went on for three days – leaving one thousand people dead. After the riot, Charles the X was replaced by Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans. Delacroix wrote to his brother in October, while working on this painting, and said, “I have undertaken a modern subject, a barricade, and although I may not have fought for my country, at least I shall have painted for her. It has restored my good spirits.”
  2. Delacroix was considered a romantic painter (not romance romantic, but with emphasis on imagination and emotion – here). His skills were enhanced by his arduous study – because like many artists of his time, he spent many hours studying the masterful paintings at the Louvre – becoming infused with ideas (from the past masterpieces) to then produce his works with his own twist.
  3. Liberty Leading the People would be a good choice for connecting art with history. Also, it provides another example of how artists use their work to express their feelings about social issues. Delacroix gives us an allegorical interpretation of this riot – with rich color, masterful brushwork, and balanced by a sophisticated pyramidal composition. Delacroix also felt torn about the riot and the state of affairs. He wrestled with being a bystander during the three days riot and was also worried about being hit by a stray bullet.  I am not sure I would want to sit and talk with Delacroix for very long, but if I did, I would tell him that Lady Liberty’s girls are completely unsupported and maybe next time he could pencil in some support….  (jk)art-delacroix-liberty-analysis-prior-2017


4. Cezanne described Delacroix’s use of color as intoxicating – (not necessarily from the piece Liberty Leading the People, but from many of Delacroix’s works) and he said, “All this luminous colour. It seems to me that it enters the eye like a glass of wine running into your gullet and it makes you drunk straight away.”

Here is a coloring sheet:


5. If I were doing a workshop about Delacroix, I would talk about some of his personal aspirations and I would maybe give my biased opinion about some things. For example, he claimed that his painting was for the ‘fatherland’ (France). So he loved his country.  He wanted to be in the group of the elites so badly that he applied to the Académie des Beaux Arts SEVEN times – until he was finally accepted. This is also why he likely did not join the fighting of the riots – he felt for the republic, but made his money from the royals.  He was conflicted (as revealed in some of his letters). Delacroix also felt a sense of superiority to the middle class, referred to them as barbaric, and even though he felt for their plight – he was caught in the middle of this uprising – like many French folks were: ambiguous about the “maintenance of the constitutional Monarchy and restoration of the Republic.”  Delacroix came from a wealthy family, but he elevated his earthly stance because sadly his self-esteem was based on such shallow superiorities. I guess his dad had testicular problems and so his mother had to mate with someone else for her children and so Delacroix had a different biological dad) and so his biological dad was from a line of prestigious French Statesmen (maybe going back  eight generations).

 Interesting, in Les Miserables, (CHAPTER IX—A MERRY END TO MIRTH) Victor Hugo noted that Cossette’s father, the only man Fantine had slept with, was from a line of French Statesmen, going back many generations of judges.  For those that don’t know the Fantine story, or are rusty, this group of rich guys had left home for adventure and they spent two years partying – which involved hooking up with some girls.  Fantine was one of those young ladies – and she was this tender, empathetic, devoted young girl and this was her very first relationship – she vulnerable and really in love (and foolishly) gave it up – without being married. Well the guys decided to head back to their stately residences, to get on with real life, and they coldly left the girls hanging – the saddest part was that Fantine was with child – the man (her lover) did not know – and back then being a single mom was much more difficult than it is today.  

Anyhow, that comes to mind when I think of Delacroix – how lineage was so important to him – and then a few connections to Les Mis. 

And speaking of Victor Hugo, in July 1803, he wrote a poem about the Three Glorious Days (Frères, vous avez vos journées)

Here is a snippet:

With tyrant dead your fathers traced
A circle wide, with battles graced;
Victorious garland, red and vast!
Which blooming out from home did go
To Cadiz, Cairo, Rome, Moscow,
From Jemappes to Montmirail passed!



Falkayn, D. (2001). A Guide to The Life, Times, and Works of Victor Hugo. The Minerva Group, Inc.

Prodger, M. (2016) Damnation, Dante and decadence: Why Eugène Delacroix is making a hero’s return. The Guardian 







26 thoughts on “Liberty Leading the People (Day 49: 365 Days of Art) Delacroix

  1. You have such a gift in teaching how to look at an art piece and see its many facets. We have seen some of his pieces in museums we have visited in NYC and Washington. We’ll not look at them with the same eyes now.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. well thanks for saying that – and this is how I learned too – from reading what others dissected and shared – so you know how it is – the whole cycle of sharing and whatnot.
      And not sure about you, but I can get overwhelmed in the big museums – it is way too much art. I know they have the audio tours and other ways to narrow it down, but it helps me to go in and focus on a few pieces – or it all runs together – does that happen to you guys?


      1. We often go to museums and it seems we each find a piece that draws us and will sit for sometimes an hour or longer studying it. We’ll get up and change positions often to see it from another angle. Some art just holds us in its grasp. My mom was a great artist but I missed out on those genes, lol.


  2. (EN) This should be a teacher, a good one😊So thanks Y for sharing😊
    (IT) Questa dovrebbe essere un’insegnante,una brava😊Perciò grazie Y per la condivisione😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is interesting to learn about the real life and background of great artists. They helped understand the works they produced. This painting is interesting and I would say that his choice of where he wanted to illuminate is like producing a photograph too. You can see, the lay of liberty was well lit. There are other parts of the paint that have similar emphasis but not in the great proportion as with the lady. They are the guiding for audiences to explore the work.

    I am wondering why they categorized him as a romantic painter (I guess most of his works are about romance?).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi YC…
      you are so right, it is very photo like, which is another special part about some paintings back then – they brought to life scenes like a photograph – and here the mix of the real and unreal give this symbolism and historical account.
      also- your analysis of Lady Liberty is spot on (pun intended) as you noted the lighting and other tidbits…
      thanks for chiming in….
      and there was more to note on this lady – like the under arm hair was detestable to artists at the time and it was part of the rebellious and strength exuded –
      Khan academy has a nice v4 minute video with more:

      Liked by 2 people

    2. the Romanticism period referred more to an attitude behind the art more than a certain style – the romantic artists were drawn towards mystery and myth – the unknown- and intense emotion that was often biased and very personal.
      Romantic makes it sound lovely and maybe even sexy, but it was instead:
      heavy – intense- allegorical – sometimes horrific, but vibrant and subjective.

      You might already know a lot of this – but here is a bit more info FYI:

      The romantic period (1800s to late 1800s) came naturally after the Neoclassical period (1700s-1800s)
      Neoclassical had art that was “restrained” and even called “severe” –
      it had touches of classical art and the restraints used were in response to getting away from gaudy and over the top Baroque and Rococo excessive pieces….

      Romanticism stared in early 1800s and it was not just seen among artists – it was also felt in literature, music, and in the intellectual circles.

      Realism came next (1840-1880s) but Romanticism stuck around and overlapped.
      realism was inspired by the rise of photography – but also as a response to some of the intensity seen among romanticism (quite graphic) – and realism wanted to show ordinary, everyday people in everyday life – and wanted to paint it well.

      Then came Impressionism (1870-1890 ) where artists wanted everyday life captured, but wanted a fresh approach – less classical style and wanted to use with looser brushstrokes – and show effects of light, weather, atmosphere, with often blurry results. then came the use of color and the influence from Japanese art, which was fresh and new to the entire world because Japan was Opened to share in mid 1800’s – and this led to a wave of Japanese art flooding the art world and then being integrated

      Then came Post-Impressionism (1885-1915) which was a huge mix of styles that transformed Impressionism – some artists were super expressive – with colors and depictions invoking emotions….
      while some artists went back to classical and wanted balance….


      Here is an easy Romanticism description from my “masterpiece” book:
      “A romantic painting can show almost any subject – even a battle.
      What makes a romantic painting is the feeling it tries to create – hope, imagination, enthusiasm.
      Delacroix shows us these romantic ideals in in this painting he called Liberty Leading the People.”

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I just came across this piece and I found it very interesting. I have often seen Liberty leading the people and it is great to get an in depth insight. I look forward to more pieces on individual paintings. Just become a follower!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. well tanks so much – and I just became a follower of your blog too – looking forward to your museum posts and thoughts on culture….!

      Liked by 1 person

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