(b. 1798, Charenton-Saint-Maurice, d. 1863, Paris)

The Massacre at Chios

Oil on canvas, 419 x 354 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

A spectacular illustration of the enthusiasm aroused amongst the romantic youth by the revolt of the Greeks against the Turks, the Massacre at Chios was directly inspired by the savage Turkish repression of the population of the island of Chios in April 1822. The critics at the Salon of 1824 received this fine painting very unfavourably. Delacroix had been inspired by Constable's Hay-Wain, which was exhibited at the same Salon, reworking the landscape background with a vibrant touch.

Horrified by the massacres perpetrated in Greece by the Sublime Porte, Delacroix denounced this crime against humanity - this genocide. His denunciation took immediate form in The Massacre of Chios; his gesture parallels that of his fervent admirer, Picasso, in his representation of the massacre at Guernica. Delacroix depicted a landscape racked with fire, stretching desolately behind a group of prisoners awaiting execution. The Massacre is all but a manifesto in its liberated expression of light and atmosphere through colour; after it, 19th century painting could never be the same again.