Eugène DELACROIX (Charenton-Saint Maurice 1798 - Paris 1863)

A View of a Riverbank Sold

Watercolour over an underdrawing in pencil.
Inscribed by the artist champrosay on the verso.
213 x 329 mm. (8 3/8 x 13 in.)

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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 only occasionally worked in this field, and never exhibited a landscape painting at the Salon. Although Delacroix’s 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 1840’s 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 1840’s 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.

The artist’s inscription ‘champrosay’ on the verso of the present sheet identifies this watercolour as a view near Delacroix’s country home at Champrosay, to the south of Paris, near Fontainebleau. Delacroix began renting the house in 1844, spending more and more time there and eventually purchasing the property in 1858, explaining his decision in a letter to his cousin; ‘But this is home: for fifteen years I’ve been coming to this region, seeing the same people, the same woods, the same hills…In other words, I bought the house…it will provide me with a small refuge in keeping with my humble fortune.’ At Champrosay, where ‘he found a veritable laboratory for the practice of landscape’, Delacroix spent much of his time sketching and drawing from nature, particularly on his daily walks in the nearby forest of Sénart and along the river Seine, just to the west of the town.

Delacroix’s watercolours, with their fluidity of wash and delicacy of touch, show 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.’

Provenance:
The artist’s studio, Paris, with the atelier stamp (Lugt 838a) at the lower right
The Delacroix atelier sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 16-29 February 1864, possibly part of lots 602 or 603
Stephen Spector, New York, in 1969
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey (on loan)
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie’s, 22 May 1997, lot 39.

Literature:
Michael Clarke, Poussin to Seurat: French Drawings from the National Gallery of Scotland, exhibition catalogue, London and Edinburgh, 2010-2011, p.48, under no.19.

Eugène DELACROIX

A View of a Riverbank

186

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