National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains Eugène Delacroix (artist)
French, 1798 - 1863
Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains, 1863
oil on canvas
overall: 92.5 x 74.5 cm (36 7/16 x 29 5/16 in.) framed: 121.3 x 103.2 cm (47 3/4 x 40 5/8 in.)
Chester Dale Fund
1966.12.1
Not on View
From the Tour: Romantics and Realists
Object 6 of 7

In 1832 Delacroix accompanied a French diplomatic mission to Morocco. His five months in North Africa would provide inspiration for the rest of his life. The exoticism and the vicarious thrill of this violent subject are typical of romantic art. While in Morocco Delacroix had painted watercolors and filled notebooks with sketches recording details of landscape and Arab dress, but he wrote later that "I did not begin to do passable work in my trip to Africa until the moment when I had sufficiently forgotten the small details to recall in my pictures only the striking and poetic aspect: up to that point I was haunted by that love of exactitude which people are apt to mistake for truth."

In this painting details are muted, subsumed into atmosphere and the energy of the attack. It has the look of a quick improvisation, yet a close look reveals how carefully painted it is. In distant bluffs, small touches of color enliven the luminous haze. In the middle range, figures and surroundings merge into one mélange of color, where churning brushstrokes convey the turbulence of action. And in the foreground, brilliant accents of green, blue, and red stand out to produce a closer -- and more dangerous -- sense of reality. Delacroix's free handling of paint and juxtapositions of complementary colors influenced the impressionists.

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