Description & Technical information

Eugène Delacroix produced relatively few landscape drawings, apparently because he regarded landscape as background for his paintings and not necessarily as a subject in itself. (He never exhibited a landscape painting at the Salon.) Although his use of watercolour as a medium for landscape sketches was inspired by his visit to England in 1826 and his friendship with the watercolourist Richard Parkes Bonington, it was not until the 1840s that he regularly made landscape studies in the medium. These works were, however, never exhibited but kept in his studio until his death. Delacroix’s revived interest in landscape from the 1840s onwards can be seen as, to some extent, the result of a series of travels he made to the mountains, the seaside and the country for the sake of his health, as well as an increasing desire for solitude and a respite from the demands made on him by his work in Paris. 

In the summer of 1845 Delacroix spent two months in the spa town of Eaux-Bonnes, at the foot of the Pyrénées. A sketchbook survives from this period, which was recently acquired by the Louvre, as well as a number of independent drawings and watercolours; in the Louvre, the British Museum, the Pierpont Morgan Library, and elsewhere. This free and fresh study may be compared to a handful of other, equally atmospheric watercolours by Delacroix in the Louvre, including two studies of the mountains of the Pyrénées. 

As the artist wrote from Eaux-Bonnes to his friend Frédéric Villot, in a letter of 24 July 1845, ‘Le pays est magnifique. C’est la montagne dans toute sa majesté. Il y a vraiment à chaque pas, à chaque détour de sentier des sites ravissants: ayez avec cela les pieds d’une chèvre pour escalader les montées et vous avez la jouissance complète du pays.’ Later he also wrote, ‘…le gigantesque et tout cela me déconcerte. Il n’y a jamais de papier assez grand pour donner l’idée de ces masses et les détails sont si nombreaux qu’il n’est pas de patience qui puisse en triompher.’

Delacroix’s watercolours, with their fluidity of wash and delicacy of touch, reveal that the artist, while not a specialist, could more than hold his own in this challenging medium. Such works as the present sheet are, in the words of one scholar, ‘a painter’s sketches, free from the manual and intellectual habits of the watercolor specialist and the illustrator.’

Date:  1826
Period:  1850-1900, 19th century, 20th century
Origin:  England
Medium: Watercolour over an underdrawing in pencil on paper, backed.
Dimensions: 17.1 x 29.5 cm (6³/₄ x 11⁵/₈ inches)
Provenance: The artist’s studio, Paris (Lugt 838a)
The Delacroix atelier sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 17-29 February 1864, probably part of lot 595 (‘Études de muletiers et de paysannes. Vues de montagnes. Aquarelles et dessins. 27 feuilles.’, bt. Richy)
Probably A. Richy, Paris
Private collection, France
Galerie Schmit, Paris, in 2000
Acquired from them by Eugene V. Thaw, New York
Thence by descent.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints