After receiving his schooling at the Lycée-le-Grand in Paris, Delacroix entered the studio of Pierre Guérrin in 1815 and enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in the following year. As a young man he studied the Italian old masters in the Louvre and the work of Rubens, while responding to the energy and unconventionality of the slightly older Géricault.
Delacroix exhibited at the salon from 1822, achieving immediate success with purchases by the state of his Dante and Virgil and Massacre at Chios exhibited in 1822 and 1824 respectively (both now in the collection of the Louvre, Paris). Shortly afterwards in 1825 he spent some months in London, which was crucial to the development of historical and literary themes in his art. His wide literary interests extended beyond France to encompass the works of the German authors Goethe and Schiller, and the British, Byron, Scott and Shakespeare. Their works often furnished subject matter for his paintings. His earliest important lithograph, Macbeth consulting the witches 1825 was produced shortly after returning from England. This was followed by a series of literary prints, notably illustrating Goethe’s Faust in 1828 and Hamlet in 1843.
Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus, exhibited at the salon in 1827, provoked much hostile comment, but established him as the leading figure of the romantic movement. Like other romantics, he was deeply fascinated by wild animals, which symbolised the primal energies of natural desire that lay beyond human reason. Lithographs of big cats pursuing and catching prey, such as Lion of Atlas 1829 and Lion devouring a horse 1844 illustrated the ferocity of this impulse. He admired the animal works of Gericault, but also the British animal painters George Stubbs and James Ward.
In 1832 he made a trip to Morocco, Algeria and Spain which fuelled an already keen interest in oriental subjects, as witnessed in his etchings Jewess of Algeria 1833 and Arabs of Oran 1833. From the 1830s he also received a number of important commissions for mural decorations: in the Palais-Bourbon (1833, 1838), the Palais du Luxembourg (1840), in the galerie d’Apollon of the Louvre (1850), the Hôtel de Ville (1851) and the church of the Saint-Sulpice (1849-61).
From the late 1840s, working in a house at Champrosay near Fontainebleau, Delacroix embarked on a series of flower paintings. After several failed attempt—s he was finally elected to the Fine Arts Academy in 1857. The Gallery’s only painting by Delacroix, Angelica and the wounded Medoro was painted around 1860. In the fluidity of its brushwork it represents a romantic prelude to certain aspects of impressionist technique, linking the tradition of history painting to modernity. Appropriately, the subject is a literary one that Delacroix revisited a number of times throughout his career. It recounts a story from the Italian epic Orlando Furioso Angelica, whereby Angelica, an Asian princess at the court of Charlemagne, elopes to China with a Saracen knight Medoro.