Pen and brown ink autograph manuscript
Gift of the Société des Amis du Musée Delacroix, 2002
16 p. in-4°
20 April 1811
This small, simple and slightly worn-out notebook is a valuable document from Delacroix’s early years, comparable to the school notebooks at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (Fondation Jacques Doucet). Consisting of 27 pages, this notebook of Latin and Greek texts and translations was used in 1881, when Delacroix was attending ninth grade at the imperial lycée. A few pen and ink drawings appear on the first and last pages.
Delacroix entered the imperial lycée (currently the Lycée Louis-le-Grand) on 3 October 1806. He remained until 30 June 1815, and was a hard-working student; he loved ancient authors, which he considered to be "better than anything." According to Achille Piron, his friend and executor, Delacroix was "a good student, sufficiently hard-working, if not very studious, but sensible and thoughtful…, one of those good students who understood everything that needed to be understood and retained the real results of his studies." Yet his results were hardly exceptional: he repeated his first class in Humanities (the equivalent of tenth grade) and earned only a dozen or so Honorable Mentions in eight years, including two for drawing.
Delacroix met his closest friends at the imperial lycée, as would also happen later in Guérin’s studio, and he stayed close to them throughout his entire life. Among them: Philarète Chasles (1798–1873), author and professor; Frédéric Leblond, one of the painter’s closest friends; and Horace Raisson (1798–1852), author, journalist, and future associate of Balzac. After completing the lycée in 1815, Delacroix started working in the studio of Pierre Guérin (1775–1843); there were many students there, including Théodore Géricault (1791–1824), whom the young painter viewed as both a friend and teacher. His formative years ended the following year at the École des Beaux-Arts.
His notebooks illustrate an early and sustained interest for all types of calligraphic exercises, where the most complex patterns of lines appeared from words, as well as a distinct taste for caricature and an irresistible need to entirely cover pages, without leaving any margins. One of his classmates, Philarète Chasles, depicted Delacroix in his Mémoires, "pursuing, torturing, and repeating shapes in every possible way with an persistence bordering on mania."