Liberty Leading the People

who was eugène delacroix?

His artistic foundations lay in his studies of classical art and artists, making copies of their work in the Louvre. He painted subjects from modern life, and was rebellious in his attitude toward established rules.

historical overview

It is important to note when we look at Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix, that it is not a depiction of the events from the French Revolution, which occurred in 1789 and lasted until around 1799.

a revolutionary time

Delacroix was a pioneering artist in French Romanticism and created artworks that moved away from the more conventional Neoclassical paintings and rules of the French Academy.

subject matter

The painting presents a scene filled with action and intensity, where the central character is a woman surrounded by hundreds of men following her lead. The woman is wearing a long yellow dress, which exposes her breasts.

subject matter

To her left is the younger figure of a boy distinguished by the two pistols in both hands, a satchel, and the black beret on his head, which is usually worn by French students and made of velvet and is referred to as a faluche.

subject matter

To her right are several adult male figures; the one closest to the woman is wearing a top hat, a black coat, and holding a shotgun in both hands. Next to his left is another man wearing a beret on his head, a ruffled white shirt, and an overall over it.

subject matter

Crawling on all fours is a figure approaching the woman’s feet. He is peering up at her as if she is a figure of salvation. He is wearing black trousers, a blue shirt, and a red waistband and bandana in the colors of the French flag. 


There are neutral and earthy colors like whites, browns, and beiges in varying shades. The foreground is lit up by an unknown lightsource, highlighting the central female figure representing Liberty, as well as the dead bodies.


Texture in the Liberty Leading the People painting is conveyed through Delacroix’s expressive and varying brushstrokes giving even more life to the composition.


There is a close interchange between brushstrokes and line, form, and shape; the brushstrokes seemingly create the forms and shapes, for example, the buildings in the distance or the rich contours of the human figures.


The painting is a large-scale artwork, measuring 260 x 325 centimeters. If standing in front of this painting we would be met by the intensity of the scene, more especially the foreground, which moves right into our space.


Although Liberty Leading the People is not a depiction of the 1789 French revolution, it is still a French revolution painting depicting a moment in time when people from all types of social classes fought together, on the edge of their freedom.