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Liberty Leading the People
by Eugène Delacroix.
Artists gained more freedom during the various French revolutions. They chose their subjects.
Delacroix's allegorical painting of the 1830 Revolution is a great example of this.
'Freedom that guides the people' represents a woman who carries the French flag above her head. She is Liberty personified. Some call her Marianne. Dressed as a Greek Goddess, she is leading the people into battle. Delacroix painted this work after the Revolution of 1830 that overthrew Carlos X, the last king of the Bourbons. The Paris uprising took place over three days in July, known as the 'Three glorious days'. Delacroix used the theme as a symbol of modernity and painted it in a deeply romantic style. The successor of Charles X, King Louis-Philippe, the Duke of Orleans, bought the painting!
The approach of the artist to the subject is highly emotional and has a lasting effect on the viewer. The dramatic scene mixes fiction and reality. Freedom is a fictitious appearance of patriotism. However, the corpses of the people are surprisingly real. The painting inspired Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. The writer chose the young man to the right of Freedom as his character Gavroche in his novel! We can also see the towers of Notre-Dame amid the smoke of the canyon, reminding us that the uprising took place on the streets of Paris. Delacroix paints the Parisians rising above the enemy in the latest releases of the conflict. The artist did not participate in the fight, but he claimed that while he did not fight, he defended his country with painting.
The painting was rejected by critics at the time for its lack of classicism and was not shown to the public until 1863 when it entered the Musée du Luxembourg! Delacroix's painting technique is also interesting because it is a more textured application of paint. His approach inspired modernists such as Edouard Manet and James McNeill Whistler.