Horse Frightened by Lightning
(Charenton-Saint-Maurice 1798 – 1863 Paris)
|Date:||between 1824 and 1829|
|Medium:||watercolour, white heightening, gum arabic on watercolour paper|
|Dimensions:||235 × 320 mm|
|Department:||Prints and Drawings|
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Horse Frightened by LightningDelacroix's art embodied all that was important in Romanticism. Breaking with classicism's strict cult of line, he built his paintings primarily upon the expressive power of colours, while he often turned to Baroque art for inspiration. He was attracted by unusual, exotic subjects, imaginary depictions of hunts, and grandiose historic scenes. Like most of his contemporaries Delacroix too was enthusiastic about the Greek War of Independence: one of his most famous works, the Massacre at Chios pays tribute to the victims of the Ottoman slaughter.
While preparing for this monumental painting he was confronted with the problem of the anatomical representation of the horse. Though he persevered in studying the motions of horses, his contemporaries and predecessors also exercised a considerable influence on him. His horses derive just as much from Géricault's Romantic paintings, and the Parthenon frieze he had admired on his brief trip to London, as to the British sporting painters who specialized in the portrayal of horses and dogs.
The horse in this splendid watercolour, rearing up startled by lightning, is borrowed from a painting by the English painter Sawrey Gilpin, reworked with Romantic imagination into an enigmatic creation of dramatic zeal. Delacroix held it in special esteem, so much that though he was usually reluctant to part from his drawings, he did give this one to a friend, the portrait painter and landscapist Louis-August Schwiter shortly after its execution.