A Turkish Man on a Grey Horse 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 portrait of a man on horseback offers an insight into two important aspects of the career of Eugene Delacroix, namely his work with watercolours as well as the influence of Islamic culture upon some of his work.

Delacroix had travelled to North Africa in search of new ideas for his work and produced a large number of drawings whilst there which would be the basis of many later paintings once he had arrived back in France. The Islamic culture was exciting to him, offering all manner of interesting elements, be it the architecture, the clothing or just the everyday differences from his own life back home. He would have studied other related regions, including Turkey, as part of his considerable interest and he would research his paintings in detail where there were historical items to consider. For example, he would sometimes avoid travelling to an area elsewhere in France for a painting, and prefer to read up on the location through any literature that he could lay his hands on. He generally worked in oils for most of his major artworks, but this watercolour piece underlines how he was also highly skilled within this medium too.

There is not a huge amount of information available on this painting, though some may still remain in French at the time of writing, but not yet translated into English. The artist wrote personal journals which may also have detail on it there, as well as large numbers of letters which were sent to both friends and family but also different contacts within the art industry. As a watercolour, this painting may actually have been a lot quicker in construction, possibly therefore being a gift to a friend, which would explain how it may have fallen into a private collection rather than being owned by major art institutions which was the way for most of his best known work. The composition here is simple, with the soldier on horseback on a sandy beach in the foreground, with a further two figures further back. Perhaps they are out for a scouting mission, rather than in direct contact with the enemy at this point.

The detail on the horse and rider make this a memorable painting. The clothing on both is beautifully captured and the grey tones of the horse work well with the blue clothing of his master. The soldier sports a turban and long spear, with Delacroix known to have also been interested in the different weaponry of foreign cultures. The lighting here is bright throughout, with the light to dark contrast of many of this artist's other paintings. The sky is also loosely created, though this type of bright blue sky is pretty much a consistent sight throughout his landscape scenes.