Delacroix – Algerian Women

Delacroix is known as the painter of Romanticism, and Ingres as that of Classicism. While these terms are too ambiguous to be of much use in criticism, they have certain definite meanings in regard to these two men. The essential difference here is not one of subject-matter: this picture and the Odalisque by Ingres are both of languid, voluptuous women of the harem; so are The Turkish Bath, by Ingres, and The Death of Sardanapatus, by Delacroix. But Ingres treats the subject with an emphasis on sharp firm line and static, sculptural modelling; Delacroix with an emphasis on rich melting color and strenuous movement. Ingres is the heir of Raphael, the Florentines and David; Delacroix of the Venetians and Rubens. The picture shown is untypical in its lack of dramatic action; but it is typical and important for its color. Even in black and white, one can see the easy relaxation, the living postures of the women, and the use of soft shadows instead of sharp lines. In the original, one feels in certain spots the vibrant, sparkling effect of color and light, due largely to the close juxtaposition of many rough, coarse brush-strokes of contrasting colors. The cushion in the lower left-hand corner is especially notable for this quality, and for the reflected sunlight on its bright-colored surface. There is a fine silky, shimmering surface quality in all the textiles, both gauzy veils and heavy brocades. His technique of broken color Delacroix owed largely to Constable, and later on it was further developed by the impressionists.