Mariane Daquet from Atelier spotlights three contemporary artists to introduce to kids and teens with related art activities to try. The first two highlighted were Alexander Calder and Bansky. Next up is Ferdinand-Victor-Eugene-Delacroix.
Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) was a French painter and an important figure in the Romantic movement, which arrived in France at the beginning of the 19th century.
It’s November 21, 1831. Members of French high society are rushing to the opera to catch a premiere. Among the crowd is a 28-year-old aristocrat, Count Charles de Mornay. He’s there with his mistress, a famous theater actress who goes by the name Mademoiselle Mars.
The young count is preoccupied by an official mission conferred on him by the king of France that will take him to Morocco the following month. He’s looking for a painter and illustrator to accompany him on the trip, someone to act as the official “photographer.”
While chatting with his friends during a break, his mistress says: “I know someone who would be perfect! He’s a young painter with talent, spirit, a worldly quality and an excellent character.” She presents Delacroix, who also happens to be at the premiere. On the spot, Mornay asks him: “Do you want to accompany me as painter on my mission to Morocco?” Delacroix, who is 33 and in search of fresh inspiration, accepts.
The trip would have an immeasurable effect on the life and work of the painter. This simple conversation during an opera intermission started one of the most important periods in the history of European art.
Mornay and Delacroix departed on January 1, 1832. They indulged in New Year’s Eve festivities and left Paris at 3 o’clock in the morning.
They traveled to Morocco, Algeria, and Spain. During the trip, Delacroix was rapt with wonder. He displayed an insatiable curiosity, constantly taking notes and sketching. He even scribbled on horseback, notebook swinging from his saddle and filled with shaky handwriting. In the evenings, he filled in the empty spaces, finished his sentences, and put the finishing touches on drawings.
Strangely enough, he didn’t believe in the usefulness of these notes. “I am certain that the information I have recorded will only be of mediocre use,” he wrote at the beginning of the expedition. He would fill seven journals during the trip with his drawings, watercolors, and notes.
However, the six months that Delacroix spent traveling would leave an indelible mark on his spirit. Modern art historians estimate that the drawings, sketches, and watercolors brought back from his voyage in 1832 formed the basis of approximately 80 paintings created up until his death, including the famous Women of Algiers (1834) and Jewish Wedding in Morocco (1841). These canvases were only completed after his return to France.
During his travels, Delacroix built a rich repertoire of images, landscapes, colors, and lights that he would draw on for the rest of his life. He wanted to forget nothing, recording everything and annotating drawings. Had he been alive today, he might have filmed everything or taken thousands of photos with his smart phone.
Beyond the Canvas
Suitable for all ages
Like Delacroix, pack a travel journal when you go on vacation. It should be small enough to fit in your bag and take everywhere.
Try making your own by buying sheets of paper in different colors and materials, and sewing or stapling them together.
Take pencils, markers, pens (it’s up to you) and an eraser if desired. You can also pack a a watercolor or acrylic set and two to three paintbrushes of different sizes, as well as scissors and glue.
This travel journal should act as a witness to your trip. Collect admission stubs, plane tickets, newspapers, candy wrappers – anything you encounter that interests you.
Sit down at a street corner and sketch out a scene or take a photo. When you get back to the hotel, finish your work like Delacroix: glue the photo in your scrapbook and caption it, complete your drawing, and write down an account of your day.
Don’t hesitate to draw on your collages, making links between drawings and writing, and laying out the pages of your notebook in different ways.
When you get home, you might think about reviewing your impressions and elaborating on the stories and starting nee works of art. Why not begin a collection of travel journals?
This article originally appeared on p62-63 of the beijingkids May 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com.
Marianne Daquet is the co-founder of Atelier, an art school in Sanlitun that offers classes for kids, teens, and adults. A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, she has exhibited in France, Beijing, and New York, and her drawings have been published in numerous international magazines. Daquet has lived in Beijing since 2006 and started Atelier with photographer Anaïs Martane after she became mother to two girls.
Photos courtesy of The wondering Angel, Feserc, Mark Fischer and Davidberkowitz (Flickr).