Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863)
Self-portrait, drawing in black pencil, unsigned, 1838, photographic reproduction, 195 x 192.
Collection: Fundacja Ciechanowieckich, Warsaw, deposit of the Towarzystwo im. Fryderyka Chopina [D/198/35].
The license is accorded by the owner.
Eugène Delacroix—French artist, a leading representative of romanticism in European art. According to Théophile Gautier, Delacroix was ‘[…] a passionate dilettante, a polished sophisticate [and] a charming talker’ [Atwood, p. 312]. Delacroix, like Chopin, was a frequent guest at Nohant, on the estate of George Sand, where he had an atelier. In letters to J. B. Pierret, he wrote: ‘It is most pleasant here […] and the hosts couldn’t be more gracious in entertaining one. When we are not all together at dinner, lunch, playing billiards or walking, each of us stays in his room, reading or lounging around on a couch. Sometimes, through the window which opens on to the garden, a gust of music wafts up from Chopin at work. All this mingles with the songs of nightingales and the fragrance of roses’ (Nohant, 7 June 1842); He especially enjoyed his long conversations with Chopin: ‘He is a man of rare distinction, the most genuine artist I have ever met. He is one of the few whom one can admire and respect’ (Nohant, 22 June 1842) [Atwood, p. 315]. Delacroix produced several portraits of Chopin, including a famous double portrait of Chopin and George Sand, painted in his Paris atelier in 1838. After the artist’s death, this canvas was cut in two. The portrait of Chopin is now held in the Louvre in Paris, and the portrait of George Sand in the Ordrugsammlung in Copenhagen. Delacroix’s notes on Chopin in his journal are extremely valuable.
’12 March 1847. After I had finished my dinner I went to call on Mme Sand. It was snowing a blizzard and I had to wade through slush to get to the rue Saint-Lazare. That good-natured fellow Chopin played for us. What an enchanting talent!’ [Delacroix 1995, pp. 74–75].
‘1 July 1847. To the Chambre de Députés in the morning. Then to Chopin, for a session at three o’clock. He was divine. They played his trio for him with Fauchon, etc.; he then played it himself, and in a masterly manner’ [Delacroix 1995, p. 82].
’29 January 1849. Went to see Chopin in the evening, I stayed with him until ten o’clock. The dear fellow! We talked of Mme Sand […] As for Chopin, his suffering prevents his taking an interest in anything, least of all in his work. I said that what with age and the unrest of the present day, it would not be long before I, too, began to lose my enthusiasm. He said he thought that I had strength enough to resist: “You will have the enjoyment of your talent”, he said, “in a kind of serenity that is a rare privilege, and no less valuable than the feverish search after fame”.’ [Delacroix 1995, pp. 90–91].
‘2 February 1849. In the evening, I talked music with Chopin, Grzymała and Alkan. He thinks that Beethoven was obsessed by the idea of Bach. He based much of his work on Bach. Haydn, the composer whose second and third parts (that is to say the music which follows after the first themes) are the best, sometimes tried them in three or four different ways. This astonishes me. He said that Mozart also put in a great deal of hard work. No doubt he did, but not in this way. He must have been guided by his conception of the work as a whole and this would not have allowed him to change the original idea entirely’ [Delacroix 1995, p. 91]. Delacroix visited Chopin very often in 1849. One frequently finds in his notes the phrase ‘I was at Chopin’s, who received me’.
‘ 5 March 1849 […] I met Prudent [Racine Gaultier, known as Prudent, a pianist and composer]. He imitates Chopin. I was proud, thinking about my poor, great, dying friend’ [Delacroix 2003, i, 189].
‘Saturday, 14 April. To see Chopin in the evening; I found him in a state of collapse, scarcely breathing. After a time, my being there seemed to do him good. He said that boredom was the worst evil he had to suffer […]’ [Delacroix 1995, p. 101].
‘Sunday, 22 April 1849. […] To Chopin after dinner. He is another man it does one’s heart good to be with, and one’s mind as well, needless to say. We talked about the people I have met at his house, Mme Kalergi, etc. He had dragged himself out to see the first performance of Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète . His horror at that rhapsody!’ [Delacroix 1995, p. 101].
‘Thursday, 17 May, Ascension Day. […] I went down to the church in Chaillot. […] Thence I went to Chopin; he is feeling truly better. Mme Kalergi was there’ [Delacroix 2003, i, 204]. Here, the entries about Chopin break off.
‘Saturday, 20 October. It was after lunch that I learned of the death of poor Chopin. Strangely enough, I had a presentiment of it before I got up this morning. I have now had such premonitions on several occasions. What a loss he will be! What miserable rascals are left to clutter the earth, yet that fine soul is extinguished! [Delacroix 1995, p. 112].
’13 February 1850. Called on Princess Marcelline about three o’clock; I was much impressed by the Chopin pieces which she played for me. Nothing commonplace, perfect composition. It would be difficult to find anything more finished. He is nearer to Mozart than anyone and, like Mozart, his melodies run so smoothly as to seem almost inevitable.’ [Delacroix 1995, p. 114]