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Lion Hunt
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gstecyk's picture

Contributor

Eugene Delacroix learned that it never hurts to make copies when your city is lit by gas lamps.  

The Director of the Fine Arts department at Musee de Bordeaux commissioned Delacroix to do a large scale painting, but asked him to submit this sketch first.  In fact, Delacroix painted several versions of The Lion Hunt.  Good thing, too, because the final work was horribly damaged in the great fire of 1870, which destroyed much of the museum’s collection.  

Like all of the Romantics, Delacroix was obsessed with Orientalism.  Before he had actually traveled to the Orient he painted such works as The Death of Sardanapalus...hence the highly stylized, archeologically inaccurate hodgepodge of hot, naked white chicks getting massacred by swarthy dudes in turbans. Perhaps hoping to rectify this, Delacroix visited Morocco in 1832 and made many sketches which served as source material for The Lion Hunt. He also drew heavily from Peter Paul Rubens’ series The Hunts for color blocking and composition.  

Critics at the time considered Delacroix’s florid palette garish, but thanks to the loose, gestural quality of this quick study, it is now considered to be one of the earliest precursors to the abstract figures of Expressionism and the bright colors of Fauvism...and more revolutionary than the more polished final piece. So goes the art world. One critic’s unfinished slop is another critic’s masterpiece.

 
jtucker's picture

Contributor

Eugene Delacroix was a real outdoorsy fellow.

He loved nature and animals, and while he didn’t paint as many puppies as I would have liked, he had a real knack for capturing the ferocity and beauty of some of the most grandiose animals around. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

It may be hard to tell, but this painting highlights one of humanity's favorite past times, slaughtering animals for fun. While I'm pretty sure this would get animal protection organizations knocking on your front door nowadays (ahem, Cecil), apparently exerting your dominance over lions was all the rage back in the day.

The idea for this piece had been swimming around in Delacroix’s head for over seven years before he was commissioned to make it in 1854. This painting was a sketch for a larger and more complete version that was to be completed a year later. While that version captures the figures and lions with more precision, it was damaged in a fire just a few years later. The inspiration for this piece came from Rubens’ lion painting The Hunts. Additionally, Delacroix was a worldly traveler and spent much time in Morocco, where this painting is based. 

People were not too smitten with this piece when it was first completed. Many found the color over the top and the composition to be incomprehensible. Whatever, haters gonna hate. I think the abstractness adds to the animosity and confusion involved in the act of killing lions. As if murder and lions wasn't enough to keep your attention!

Here we see man fighting nature, but nature gives man a run for his money. This painting captures the idea of the never-ending battle between man and nature. While I don’t think this skirmish is going to end anytime soon, I would think we could restrain ourselves from the whole killing endangered species thing. If you didn’t already know, here are some pretty solid reasons why killing lions is just not cool:

  • They are far more majestic than you
  • They could tear you apart
  • When traveling through Africa I learned there is a "shoot first, ask questions later" policy when it comes to poachers

So you may be better off engaging in the art of lion dueling with a painting by Delacroix or Rubens rather than toughing it out with a real big kitty.