Here is Patrick Noon, Elizabeth MacMillan Chair of Paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Head Exhibition Curator.
To me this is a portrait of an artist where everything is laid bare. It was painted around 1850 so it was at the height of his powers, his notoriety and his creative genius. He was about 52 years old at the time.
He was very much a social creature that he went to salons regularly, he became very close friends with Chopin and George Sand and attended their salons. Salons were the way of socializing in the 19th century and he was very much a part of that culture, he didn’t like it and he didn’t stay very long at these things, but he went. And he was always very reserved apparently from what people say. When he made a comment, everybody listened but he was never trying to take the center stage, he was just there to observe basically and then he would go home and he’d work. He’d work until the middle of the night.
He never married because work was his spouse and he admitted that. I can’t be distracted, I have to do this. At the end of his life which is what we are mostly dealing with the work from last years of his life, he was very reclusive, because he knew he was running out of time, where he felt that he had too little time to accomplish what he wanted to accomplish.
If you would like to hear what George Sand, writer and dear friend of Delacroix wrote about him two days after his death, press the Green button.