The path he chooses is difficult : without any figure of famous personality in the opposite of David and Gros, Delacroix will have to demonstrate his own genius to find patrons. The contemporaries do not like the dirt of his war characters. His realism anticipates Courbet.
In 1830 violent events also happen in Paris. The barricades of the Trois Glorieuses (three glorious days) transfer the French monarchy from the Bourbons to the Orléans. Delacroix had no reason to participate in this new revolution : both branches of the royal family were his clients.
Overcome in the usual competitions of that time on predetermined historical themes, Delacroix feels that he can be the first to express the heroic atmosphere of the Trois Glorieuses to please the new regime.
Already about the Greek war Delacroix had shown fighting and harmed people, and also a feminine Victory inspired by ancient art as a separate artwork. For the Trois Glorieuses he has the very innovative idea of mixing the two themes in a single heroic painting of very large size. He immediately begins to prepare drawings.
Success is mixed. Exhibited in 1831 at the Salon de Paris under the slightly bland title Scènes de Barricades, the oil painting 260 x 325 cm also known as 28 Juillet is bought by the king and then retracted by a minister after a few months with the very understandable excuse that it was an incitement to riot. Accepted by the Louvre at the beginning of the Troisième République, this Liberté guidant le peuple becomes the symbol of democracy.
On December 14 in London, Christie's sells a 64 x 85 cm canvas which is certainly the very first oil sketch made by Delacroix for his Liberté. It is estimated £ 700K, lot 8. Remaining traces of a change of orientation of the canvas allow to state that this painting is autograph. It is a precious testimony of the creative process for one of the most universally admired masterpieces of French art.
SOLD for £ 3.1M including premium