Musée National Eugène Delacroix
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Art Collectors and Dealers

From public commissions to private commissions

Delacroix’s financial and material situation was extremely precarious in his early years, but gradually improved, notably through commissions and purchases from the successive governments of Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis-Philippe. The artist managed to maintain this official support throughout the various regimes through the intermediary of well-placed friends at court.

Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877), one of his first supporters, helped him achieve the legitimacy he had lacked in the monarchist milieus. The patronage of Achille Fould (1800-1863)-whose brother Benoît commissioned Ovid Among the Scythians from Delacroix in 1859 (London, National Gallery)-of his cousin, the lawyer and politician Pierre-Antoine Berryer (1780-1868) and of Narcisse Vieillard (1791-1857) brought him closer to Emperor Napoleon III. Moreover, the role played by the artist’s female entourage cannot be overstated: Pauline Villot, the actress Mlle Mars (1797-1847), Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), Elisabeth Boulanger-Cavé (1809-after1875) and especially his cousin Joséphine de Forget (1802-1886) all used their connections to help the painter acquire and then maintain his position in the capital’s artistic circles and high-society. Delacroix was also able to gain the friendship of civil servants holding important offices in the Ministry of Interior, which oversaw the administration of the Beaux-Arts: Edmond Cavé (1794-1852), who was its director from 1839 to 1848; author and art critic Charles Blanc (1813-1882), founder of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, who succeeded Edmond Cavé from 1848 to 1850; painter and author Frédéric Bourgeois de Mercey (1808-1860), who was a director of the Beaux Arts division in the 1850s; and painter Alfred Arago (1816-1892), Inspector General of the Beaux-Arts. Through this "network" Delacroix was able to obtain major and rather well paid commissions, notably for large institutional projects (Chambre des Députés, Sénat, Palais du Louvre, Hôtel de Ville). Starting in the 1850s, the artist received fewer commissions from the government, as more of his work came from a highly diverse private clientele that included French and foreign collectors as well as art dealers.

This circle of Delacroix admirers included, for example, political figures, members of the royal family or aristocrats who were well placed during the Restoration and then during the July Monarchy. In 1830, the Duc d’Orléans (1810-1842) purchased several major paintings from Delacroix for his gallery of contemporary artists (Murder of the Bishop of Liège, The Prisoner of Chillon, Jewish Wedding in Morocco, all three now in the Musée du Louvre). The Duc de Fitz-James (1803-1846) acquired Milton and His Daughters (private collection) after the 1827-1828 Salon. The Comte Charles de Mornay (1803-1878), whom Delacroix accompanied to Morocco in 1832, commissioned and purchased several canvases, including Arab Cavalery practising a charge (1832, Montpellier, Musée Fabre). Other collectors included the financier Benjamin Delessert (1773-1847), Etienne (1802-1892) and Emmanuel (1812-1896) Arago, various bankers such as Charles Edwards and the Pereire brothers, Isaac (1806-1880) and Jacob (1800-1875).

Friends and collectors

Early on in his career, Delacroix also benefited from the crucial help of his painter and writer friends. Among the former, Baron Louis-Auguste Schwiter (1809-1865), a major collector of antiquities, commissioned his portrait in 1826 (London, National Gallery); Baron Charles Rivet (1800-1872), a politician and deputy, owned several paintings, including a sketch for The Death of Sardanapalus (Musée du Louvre). We know that Frédéric Villot (1809-1875), painting curator for the Musée du Louvre from 1848 to 1861, owned nine paintings, including Murder of the Bishop of Liège (1831, Musée du Louvre) and The Death of Ophelia (1838, Munich, Neue Pinakothek). As for Adrien Dauzats (1803-1868), one of the founders of the Société des Amis des Arts de Bordeaux, he not only introduced the townspeople of Bordeaux to the artwork of his friend, but even found buyers for his work-thus in December 1851, Delacroix sold an Agony in the Garden to M. F.-E. Damblat (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum) for 350 francs, and in 1852, a Jewess of Algiers to the vice-president of the Société, T. B. G. Scott. Special mention must surely be made of Constant Dutilleux (1807-1865), an unconditional admirer of the artist since 1827, with whom he corresponded regularly. The founder of the Société Artésienne des Amis des Arts, Dutilleux worked to obtain several canvases by the master for its members and for himself. He was also responsible for the acquisition by the Musée d’Arras of St. Stephen Born Away by His Disciples (1853).

Etienne-François Haro (1827-1897) occupied a singular position in this circle. A paint dealer, Haro was the primary supplier of canvases, frames and paints to Ingres and Delacroix, as well as their usual painting restorer. He offered to represent both painters to galleries and collectors, and took advantage of his relationship with the two artists to collect a significant number of their works during their lifetimes and after their deaths. At the posthumous sale of Delacroix’s works (16-18 February 1864), Haro thus acquired twenty paintings. The small group of "romantic" authors who continued to admire Delacroix, even after he had distanced himself from their ideas, included Auguste Vacquerie (1819-1895)-brother-in-law of Léopoldine Hugo, one of the poet’s daughters-who purchased The Giaour Pursuing the Ravishers of his Mistress (Algiers, Musée des Beaux-Arts) during the 1851 Salon, after purchasing Woman combing her Hair (private collection, while at the same time his friend Paul Meurice acquired Delacroix’s Good Samaritan (Waterhouse collection). And, of course, Alexandre Dumas père cannot be forgotten. In 1845, he purchased a Christ on the Cross (Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) from Delacroix and sometime around 1855 a Hamlet and the Corpse of Polonius (Reims, Musée des Beaux-Arts).

Once Delacroix’s reputation had been established-despite hostile criticism from the press-foreign collectors then also started knocking at his studio door. On May 26, 1847, Polish archeologist and collector Count Tyszkiewicz purchased Castaways in a Ship’s Boat (Moscow, Pushkin Museum) from him. Another Polish émigré, Count Albert Grzymala (1793-1870), a great friend of Chopin, obtained a studio copy a Christ on the sea of Galilée (ca 1853; private collection). Dutch-born Count Théodore de Geloës first purchased The Lamentation (Boston; Museum of Fine Arts) in 1848; he then made a deal with Delacroix and purchased a Daniel in the Lions’ Den (Zurich, Bührle Foundation)-Alfred Bruyas obtained another version of this work in 1854 (Montpellier, Musée Fabre)-and the portrait of Bruyas (even though it was Bruyas himself who had commissioned the work in 1853; Montpellier, Musée Fabre), and also a portrait of The actor Talma (commissioned by the Ministry in 1852, the work was intended for the Comédie Française, where it is to this day). Among the foreign clients whose names appear in Delacroix’s Journal from this time are the Brussels stockbroker Prosper Crabbe (died 1890), and Van Isacker, born in Antwerp, who on March 16, 1847 reserved a Lion Mauling a Dead Arab (Oslo, Nasjonalgalleriet)-but these were merely occasional collectors.

Among the regular collectors, mention must be made of J. P. Bonnet, who in 1852 purchased Marfisa and Pinabello’s Lady (Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery), and a small-scale copy of Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople (Musée du Louvre); the businessman John Wilson to whom Delacroix sold the "scandalous" Death of Sardanapalus (1827-1828 Salon, Musée du Louvre) in 1845; and the industrialist Jacques-Frédéric Hartmann (1822-1880), who in 1856 commissioned four paintings for his sitting room from Delacroix (São Paulo, Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis). In this list, which is far from complete, the place of honor goes to stockbroker Adolphe Moreau (1800-1859), whom Delacroix asked to manage his assets in 1845. Using his personal fortune, Moreau created an impressive collection between 1843 and 1854, although he preferred to purchase work from dealers (Durand-Ruel, Léopold Chéradame, Weill) or at public auctions, rather than directly from the painter. The bulk of his collection, which contained many masterpieces, was offered to the Musée du Louvre by his grandson, Etienne Moreau-Nélaton (1859-1927). It included, among other works, Still Life with Lobsters (1827, purchased from the painter Philippe Rousseau in 1853), The Shipwreck of Don Juan (1840, purchased in 1846 from the dealer Chéradame) and Jewish Musicians from Mogador (purchased just before the 1847 Salon).

Delacroix and art dealers

Delacroix’s first contacts with art dealers certainly started very early on (Woman with Parrot was included in an auction organized by the art expert Petit in 1829; Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts), but they intensified after 1850, which contributed to the rise in the price of the painter’s works. From Delacroix’s Journal and Correspondance, we know that these transactions took place either just after the Salons or during auctions, and that the art dealers would contact him directly when they wanted to commission specific works. Moreover, Delacroix seems to have maintained good relationships with them, agreeing without too much discussion, for example, to paint a third or fourth version of a theme that had already been exhibited at the Salon. For Beugniet, one of his primary buyers, Delacroix agreed in 1853 to deliver studio copies of Christ on the Cross (London; National Gallery), Christ on the Sea of Galilee (Baltimore; Walters Art Gallery) and one of the many versions of a lion attacking its prey, in this case, Lion Seizing a Wild Boar (1853, Musée du Louvre). Weill and Georges Thomas, whose names appear along with other dealers in Delacroix’s diaries, played a major role, as shown by the painter’s detailed record of his negotiations with them. For instance, it appears that on the same day of 1853, Weill bought four canvases he had commissioned shortly before, including a View of tangier from the seashore (Minneapolis; Minneapolis Institute of Arts). As for Thomas, in 1849 he selected a Lamentation, a Agony in the garden (location unknown) and a Turkish Woman (private collection), and in 1852 purchased a Small Tiger and a St. Sebastien unbound by the Holy Women (location unknown). In fact, until the end, Delacroix maintained a steady relationship with the dealers: in 1863, Delacroix sold to Tedesco, who had purchased in 1859 a Erminia and the Shepherds (Stockholm, Nationalmuseum), a Collection of Arab Taxes (also known as Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains; Washington, National Gallery of Art) and a Arab Camp at Night that he had commissioned (Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum).

In the years following the master’s death, the interest of art collectors and dealers remained steady. Significantly, starting in the 1870s, many of Delacroix’s works made their way into some of the largest private and public American collections, thanks notably to such dealers as Durand-Ruel-who introduced major artworks to the American public through the exhibition he organized in New York in 1887-as well as several American artists, including John La Farge (1835-1910), who had discovered Delacroix during stays in France. In the final years of the 19th century, major sales held both in France and abroad demonstrated the unflagging interest on the part of collectors and dealers for every aspect of Delacroix’s art. Throughout the 20th century, however, Delacroix’s popularity rose and fell, although it must be said that the situation of the art market is totally different from what it was during the artist’s lifetime.

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