Eugène Delacroix
(Charenton-Saint-Maurice, 1798-1863, Paris)
Self-Portrait, ca. 1830/35
Oil on canvas, 36 x 28 cm
Johnson M5
Delacroix’s contemporaries described him as the perfect man of the world, short but sinewy, his clear countenance pale, almost yellowish, framed by dense, jet-black hair, which rendered him somewhat exotic. However they have not overlooked the passion behind the disciplined exterior, e.g. "his eyes, which had the expression of a wild cat".
The small self-portrait with the fine, energetic features and the captivating gaze completely bears out these contemporary descriptions. The picture is built up on a transparent light-brown background, with sparing use of colours, the only bright spot being a red stripe at the throat; the artist’s entire attention is devoted to the face composed of densely articulated brushwork, loosely framed by the luxuriant black hair. Lee Johnson, the author of the catalogue raisonné, surmises that only the lower part of the sitters face was painted by Delacroix himself, whereas the larger part of the portrait was painted by a close collaborator of the artist who inherited the picture after the latter's death.