The Education of Achilles (Drawing) Eugene Delacroix Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This graphite drawing is dated at 1844, and is clearly a study piece for the later painting, The Education of Achilles. He also completed a pastel that was identical in content.

We do know that the artist's friend, George Sand, would comment on her love for the original painting and as such Delacroix decided to produce the pastel version especially for her. The combination of classical themes with the technical qualities of his work always delivered some exciting results, and the same can be found here with all of the oil based, graphite and pastel versions. Two figures were depicted on the back of a horse (centaur Chiron), with some generic background detail added alongside. In our beautiful, but simpler graphite version here from 1844, the artist just concentrates on the form of his main figures. No real background is added, other than a simple line around the hooves of the horse which allow us to work out roughly where the ground would be added in the next iterations.

Both male figures look strong and lean, and the older male at the front appears to be directing the younger man to a suitable target, just as he prepares to fire his bow and arrow. His arms, shoulders and back are particularly muscular, with extra detail added here to give the impression of strength and athleticism. His hair is rough and unstyled, perhaps due to the animated nature of their task. The younger male has his own hair tidied back behind in a bun, or perhaps a small pony tail, which allow him to direct her weapon without any interference. She leans to the right, perhaps balanced by the strong leg and buttock muscles that she possesses. It is easy to see how George Sand would become so excited by the follow up versions, where colour and further detail had been added.

The leading gentleman is believed to be Chiron, who is instructed the young Achilles in the art of battle. The lines of graphite in this portrait are reworked several times, illustrating how the artist was unsure about the finished look and desired to tweak it several times at this early study stage. It would always be much easier to make changes now rather than later on when he had moved onto the more complex layers of oil used in the painting. Chiron holds something in his left hand which is hard to identify, but we know from later iterations that this was also a bow, which he was not using at the time, and concentrating more on tutoring his younger colleague.

The Education of Achilles (Drawing) in Detail Eugene Delacroix