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Eugene Delacroix is rightfully considered the founder of French romanticism. Most of his works are tense epic plots made in rich contrasting colors, which were not characteristic of neoclassicism still prevailing in France at the beginning of the 19th century. The origin of Eugene Delacroix is still shrouded in mystery, according to one version he is even considered the illegitimate son of Napoleon.
The early death of his parents makes the young man look for ways to education, and the School of Fine Arts in Paris becomes a kind of alma mater for him. Talented, hardworking and reckless Eugene already in his youth acquired eminent friends, among whom were Alexander Dumas and Richard Bonigton. But the greatest influence on the young artist had the work of Theodore Gericault. Sensational in 1819, his painting Raft Medusa, created under the influence of the real tragic events widely discussed at that time on the frigate Medusa, for which Eugene even posed, was so impressed with the future master of romanticism that three years later Delacroix creates his canvas Dante and Virgil, which the opinion of critics and connoisseurs of painting of those years had a clear stylistic resemblance to the scandalous creation of Gericault.
The canvas is written on the theme of the 8th song of Hell from the divine comedy of Dante, where the poet tells his vision of passing along with Virgil through the circles of hell. On the eighth lap, they had to cross a swamp near the dead, burning city of Diet, where tormented sinful souls suffered in the dirty waters. The picture captures the moment when Dante, in one of the sinners distraught from torment, who are struggling to climb into the boat, recognizes his personal enemy and throws up his hand in surprise and horror in fright, as if trying to distance himself from it. Virgil wants to reassure the poet and holds his other hand.
The whole plot of the picture is filled with dynamics and emotional intensity. Angry, clinging to a boat, captured in different angles and poses - someone with bestial anger and bitterness almost scrambled aboard, others, exhausted, limped themselves to a dragging water stream. Their naked bodies are painted in light tones in contrast with dark water and the side of the boat, and this reinforces the inexplicable feeling that they will continue to move, you just have to look away. The bent, strained back of the ruling villain Phlegius beside the impassive with Virgil adds an ominous moment.
Despite the accusations of adherents of academic classicism in the poor visual technique and unconvincing contours of figures, contemporaries unanimously admitted that the debut of the picture took place.
K Yuon New Planet