Liberty Leading the People, Eugene Delacroix, 1830
Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) is one of the most notable French painters and the leader of the French Romantic school. Liberty Leading the People commemorates the July Revolution of 1830 where the people overthrew the reigning Bourbon monarch Charles X and is one of the first political works in modern painting. Delacroix eschewed Academicism, which was the norm, in favour of Romanticism. The painting shows Marianne, the symbol of the nation, as Liberty, making her both a robust woman and goddess-figure. The mounds of corpses are the pedestal on which she stands triumphantly, appearing to stride off the canvas and into the viewers space. She wears the Phygian cap that symbolized liberty during the French Revolution, a sign of her desire for democracy. The men fighting around her come from a range of social classes but have in common a fierce and determined look in their eyes to fight for freedom. Delacroix paints himself standing on the right wearing a top hat and a solemn look; he was in fact a member of the National Guard. Liberty carries the tricolour flag of the revolution, a symbol of democracy, and a bayoneted musket. The painting inspired the Statue of Liberty, which the French presented as a gift to the United States fifty years after Liberty Leading the People was painted. In the background, on the Notre Dame, a tiny tricolour flag is flying triumphantly.