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Frightened Wild Horse Emerging from the Water

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)

© RMN / T. Le Mage

Eugène Delacroix

MD 2002-45
Crayon Lithograph
Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée Delacroix, 2002
H. 0,225 m ; L. 0,235 m
Signed bottom left on the lithograph: Eug. Delacroix, Xre 1828

This is certainly Delacroix’s most famous print. Setting aside the narrative aspect - the reason for the fear is not depicted - the painter worked to portray the untamed power of the horse, which is absolutely furious. The animal fills the entire space, crossing it both diagonally and widthwise, against a background of striated hatching that intensifies the disturbing aspect of the scene.


Delacroix was probably inspired by British artist George Stubbs (1724-1806), whose work was well known in France for the dark prints produced by himself or other printers. He liked to portray horses frightened by storms or attacked by felines. The Wild Horse is one of his most famous prints in the genre, as well as one of the most romantic.

Its power comes from Delacroix’s original approach to the composition, based on the instability of the animal’s position - although the viewer does not know why it is frightened. Refusing the constraints of an exact anatomical description, Delacroix was interested only in the raw tension of the horse. The background treatment, which is very black to the right and lighter to the left, features strong hatching, which further increases the eerie and supernatural aspect of the scene.


Loys Delteil, Susan Strauber, Eugène Delacroix. The Graphic Work. A Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1997, n°78, p. 198.

Barthélémy Jobert, in Delacroix, le trait romantique, catalogue exposition Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1998, p. 142, n°167.

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