Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People
The Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (also known as Liberty on the Barricades) is a masterpiece of the French Revolution. A canvas is 11-feet wide hanging in the gallery of the Musée du Louvre, which is recognized for reserving the greatest French historical paintings. For example, it hangs large and weighty historical paintings accounting for French public events. The Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (from now on Liberty), however, is small and modest. As a result, it is classified among the detailed French history paintings. Bryan Zygmont (2016) claims that Delacroix completed his painting the same year 1830 the Revolution occurred. As an artist, Delacroix asserted that he had the duty to document the event of the 1830 Revolution. He, therefore, used fascinating colors to compose and combine intense brushstrokes creating a memorable work of art. The figure of liberty dominates the composition of the painting through the half-naked woman demanding attention as she leads a group of people trampling over corpses.
Through the Liberty, Delacroix strived to ensure the pyramid structure with the liberty was the peak and the corpses as the base of the canvas painting. The balanced combination depicts a dramatic and busy scene. Thus, the Liberty is a work of art striving to portray how the French took part in July 28, 1830, to rebel and pursue liberty. As a result, Delacroix’s work through the Liberty can be identified as the canvas work of art representing the French romanticism (Jones, 2005).
Liberty is visually striking, capturing the energy and excitement of the rebel, and was a powerful symbol of the continuous struggle for liberation. It strives to portray this theme in a way the French took part in the Revolution. But several art critics and researchers, including Jones (2005), claim that the painting does not portray the French Revolution. As a result, the report will strive to affirm the canvas work of art represents the French romanticism. It will, therefore, attempt to state that the Revolution of 1830 was an event that replaced the abdication of King Charles X who was a member of the Bourbon family. It will also indicate how liberalism, after being unleashed by the French Revolution, became a dominant force in France. Ultimately, the report will discuss how the painting Liberty attempts to connect romanticism with liberalism by examining the figures and costumes constituting the art.
Liberty: Romanticism and Liberalism
Romanticism is a general word that is applied in describing fascination with power and obscurity of nature. Through paintings, this word used to assert that the art celebrates an individual through self-expressions as drawings enable people to imagine how power was attained by applying power rather than logic. Thus, romanticism can be used to argue that the Liberty is depicting the rebellion against the French Revolution to attain liberation. According to Jones (2005), Delacroix’s painting does not depict a peaceful, significant, and reasonable outcome of the Parisian uprising affirming that it applies romanticism. The romanticism verifies that rebellions were experienced on July 28, 1830, among people striving to attain liberation by revolting the French Revolution. Thus, it portrays a moment of anarchic freedom after the crowd ascertained that anything was possible. It represents the people quest for liberty, fraternity, and equality, a subject of great significance to the France on the heels of a successful revolution. The Liberty is, therefore, a fascinating work of art as it represents how a revolution looks and feels like. More so, it portrays euphoric, libidinal, violent, and vicious aspects involved in attaining independence through romanticism.
Delacroix painted a woman wearing a dress falling to expose her upper body. He was also keen to pain neck with masculinity to affirm that she was using physical and emotional energy to hold up the tricolored flag. Thus, the painting ensures the powerful arm holds up the flag displaying red, white, and black colors as a sign of fighting for liberty. Delacroix painted the woman looking sideways to affirm that she was neither concerned, nor keen on covering her naked upper body. The position indicates she had a strong romantic idea of liberty prompting her to join the protests to attain independence. The aspect of the picture depicting the woman turning in profile as if she is oblivious to the chaos around her is also applied to emphasize that people inclined to romanticism as they pursue liberty are determined (Jones, 2005). More so, Delacroix ensured her other hand was holding a rifle with a fixed spear to stab at close quarters the adversaries of freedom. Delacroix was also keen to ensure she holds the tricolored flag that is the current French national flag to affirm the French Revolution resulted in the autonomy and independence (Jones, 2005).
A pistol held aloft by a boy running forward is located next to the cruel blade in the gun smoke. In addition to the male youngster holding guns in his two hands, his lips indicate he is also trying to show he had witnessed pain, suffering, and death. According to Jones (2005), the scene depicted by the boy is similar to that portrayed by Robert Capa through the photograph of the Spanish Republican at the instant death. It is also analogous to the last moments of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Jones, 2005). Ultimately, the boy’s presence affirms that the glorious days witnessed on July 28, 1830, involved several people who experienced pain and fatalities to attain liberation. Thus, liberation should be identified as an intellectual process of ensuring cohesive coexistence among citizens in an independent state. The painting also seeks to affirm that romanticism is a common goal among people striving to live cohesively ready to witness violent fights and chaos before attaining independence and liberty.
A state involves an assembly of people who believe they have something in common. Thus, they can share cultural, historical, ethnic, language, and religious beliefs to attain the right to their state. Sharing the universal goal of romanticism leads to nationalism. Nationalism, however, does not guarantee loyalty and patriotism. For example, political leaders during the French Revolution wanted the subjects to be patriotic and loyal. The desire to attain political nationalism, however, led to romanticism encouraging the subjects to rebel and seek independence. Thus, romanticism can also emerge from political nationalism among citizens believing they have the right to own a state that can govern itself.
When Delacroix was painting, he included intellectual dandy in a top hat brandishing a musket and street kids fighting with pistols side by side. The painting also depicts them clambering over the bodies of soldiers, militants, and ordinary citizens who had passed on due to violence. Delacroix, therefore, affirms that soldiers were subjects tasked striving to ensure the country relies on romanticism to attain liberation. Thus, indicating that the soldiers were dead was a tactic that Delacroix applied to affirm that romanticism can encourage subjects to betray their leaders through romanticism to attain political nationalism and liberty. He, therefore, painted Liberty like the image that gets under the skin and the fantasy of the French Revolution. For example, one can see the towers of Notre Dame rise through the smoke and haze. The Notre Dame was, therefore, established as the icon of the French romanticism (Jones, 2005). Thus, it further affirms that the French Revolution was a romantic revolt involving people uniquely placed in positions they could make history by making the nation a better place they would enjoy to identify as their resident.
Romanticism can be sensationalized and described as the application of morbid passion during sad and desperate moments. According to Jones (2005), the painting depicting the July 28 Revolution was far less momentous than other revolutions portrayed by other French painters. Thus, Delacroix’s painting does not define revolution as a full-circle or turnaround. Instead, it strives to portray the Revolution as a total break with the past. It should, therefore, be applied in defining revolution as the complete overturning of an old sociopolitical order. As a result, the Revolution through romanticism invented modern politics through the following two steps. Foremost, it legitimized the actions of the people relying on romanticism to attain liberation. Consequently, it contemplated the destruction of tradition, encouraging political leaders to oppress their subjects and hinder them from achieving political nationalism.
Jones (2005) further asserts that revolutions do not always have successful conclusions. He, therefore, describes Delacroix as a painter able to apply art in showing the romance of the people who were protesting in the streets because they believed July 28 had not attained the complete revolution. Thus, he was able to paint a piece of art, affirming that a romantic generation was established by people who took to the streets who believed July 28 was only a moment rather than a complete revolution. For example, a viewer should notice the impressive female figure with a yellow dress falling from her shoulders. Thus, she holds a speared musket in her left hand despite the dress exposing her upper body. More so, she raises the tricolored flag with her right hand. Viewers should also note the man is looking up at her. Combining the attires worn by the female and male can indicate that they mimic the red, white, and blue French flag is drawn by arranging the colors in that order (Zygmont, 2016). Thus, the woman looking back over her right shoulder represents a powerful figure moving forward to ensure her colleagues and subjects are in pursuit of liberty.
More so, her head while wearing a top is painted in a ruler-like classical coin profile fitting the Phrygian cap to signify freedom. The mode of costume applied in completing the painting, therefore, depicts liberation. For example, freed slaves in ancient Rome would be allowed to wear the Phrygian to indicate their liberated status (Zygmont, 2016). Delacroix, therefore, painted the costume to symbolize freedom and liberty. Jones (2005) asserts that the Liberty is a painting of the emotional freedom and joy of revolution. It strives to affirm that some people lack the romance to they need prompting them to pick up a weapon and join a revolutionary war in pursuit of liberty (Zygmont, 2016). They should, however, appreciate the efforts undertaken by citizens romantically pursuing the right to own a state that governs its people.
The Liberty painting depicts female and male figures symbolizing romanticism and liberty do not depend on gender. For instance, a boy, soldier, and several men represent the female character. The man holding a briquette; which is an infantry saber that was commonly used during the Napoleonic Wars, wears a sailor’s pair of trousers, working shirt and an apron. Thus, he can be identified as a worker in the lower socioeconomic class. He is, however, keen on romanticism and liberty as he risks losing his position by joining the chaotic protests. According to Zygmont (2016), the handkerchief across his waist securing the pistol has a pattern similar to the Cholet handkerchief. Thus, it should symbolize that he is a loyal soldier leading in an ill-fated uprising against a government opposing romanticism to attain liberation. The red color of his ribbon attached to the beret and the white colored cockade describe his revolutionary senses. It should also indicate that he has hope for romanticism attaining autonomy.
The soldier donning a black cap can also be identified as a figure contrasting the young boy beside the half-naked woman signifying people of different genders, age groups, and socioeconomic class can pursue romanticism and desires to attain liberation.. The painting also showed a top-hatted soldier wearing a black coat and open-collared white chemise. The costumes are elegantly tailored indicating the soldier belongs in a different socioeconomic class from the man beside him. More so, Delacroix opts for the soldier to hold a hunting shotgun in contrast to a military weapon. Delacroix, therefore, paid attention to the details in completing the painting by ensuring the figures compared clearly indicate the Revolution was for the affluence and persons economically and socially downtrodden. By including adults and children, Delacroix attempted to affirm the achievement that they can undertake romanticism for liberty. For example, he painted two young boys with one of them donning a light infantry bicorne while holding a short saber. Moreover, he is struggling to maintain his footing in the pile cobblestones. The second boy is, on the right side of the canvas, holding two pistols while carrying a school bag with a crest across his body. He wears a black velvet beret known as faluche as it was common among students (Zygmont, 2016).
Based on the review of the painting, it is clear that Delacroix depicted at least five guns and three blades among the six focal figures. He also ensured a large group of dead people covers the ground to signify members of the military and revolutionaries lost their lives. It further enables the painting to depict the fervor and chaos of urban conflicts as clearly as possible as they occurred during the Revolution. The Notre Dame is, therefore, the urban architectural monument of Paris that affirms public conflicts took place during that day. The half-naked woman in the painting should also be a romanticism goddess leading people to liberty. Delacroix depicts her as a majestic living and breathing woman who is frightening to attain the dreamlike qualities of a rational way leading people to either death or victory as they pursue liberty (Zygmont, 2016).
The painting was completed in 1830. Thus, it has survived revolutions relying on romanticism to attain liberation. The work of art has observed changes in sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and technological growth. It, however, is not naïve as it includes people depicting sensibilities witnessed in life among idealistic people pursuing a common goal such as liberty. For example, the Liberty depicts death as a moving part of the rebellion. It also illustrates sickness as the very center of revolutionary progress. Thus, the Liberty should be identified as a romantic and optimistic work of art acknowledging rebellions have to use violence (Zygmont, 2016). It should also be used to affirm the inseparable belief that total change in ruling a state requires people driven by romanticism. Ultimately, it confirms liberation can be attained through romanticism.
The Liberty painting is thus a work of art depicting a dream of the French who relied on the 1830 rebellion to attain sociopolitical and socioeconomic independence. Without a closer look, the art can seem to be overpowered by chaos and violence. It is, however, a composition of hope on romanticism. The way Delacroix mixes the costumes worn by the figures in the painting symbolizes freedom and liberty. He relies on the half-naked woman carrying a gun and a flag to serve as an allegory revealing moral and political autonomy. Ultimately, the painting is a monumental statue representing the ideas of romanticism, political nationalism, and independence.
Jones, J. (2005). How Delacroix captured the ecstasy of liberty: Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2005/apr/02/art1
Zygmont, B. (2016). Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People. Khan Academy. Retrieved from https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/later-europe-and-americas/enlightenment-revolution/a/delacroix-liberty-leading