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Work Frightened Horse Emerging from the Water

Department of The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Frightened Horse Emerging from the Water, Eugène Delacroix

© RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Thierry Le Mage

The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Catherine Adam

Drawing inspiration from Rubens, Gros, and his friend Géricault, Delacroix enjoyed drawing and painting horses. He was drawn to the beauty and power of man’s best friend. Delacroix had undoubtedly seen the work of British artist George Stubbs (1724–1806), known for his depictions of horses frightened by felines. He may have discovered them during his travels to England from May to August 1825. He also explored the theme of horses attacked by felines, which, like his English counterpart, he would return to on several occasions throughout his life.

The painter of horses

On October 5, 1822, Delacroix wrote in his Journal of his desire to study horses at the coaching station, and again on April 15, 1823 to start drawing horses and to visit the stables each morning. His many studies of flayed horses or skeletons can be dated to this period, while his watercolors showing several versions of the frightened horse theme were done in the second half of the 1820s.

The most spectacular are undisputedly those representing a kicking horse (Paris, private collection) or the front view of a horse frightened by a storm. This lithograph appears to be its rear view variant; the horse fills almost the entire page, the body forming the diagonal, same opposing twist in the body and head, mane and tail bristling with contrasting movements. The background is different but just as disturbing for the viewer does not know why the horse is frightened.

Masterly technique

A rare occurrence, the lithograph is precisely dated to December 1828. Delacroix experimented with lithography for almost ten years, and acquired a very strong command of this technique. Precise, energetic, and broad lines in the background, contrasting with thinner and crisscrossed lines on the horse to create volume, give the impression of chaos, but their arrangement is fully mastered and highly effective. This is an artist at the height of his expressive powers, at once daring and sure of his effects, as evinced by his rather lyrical signature.


Susan Strauber, Eugène Delacroix. The Graphic Work. A Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 1997.
Catalogue de l’exposition Delacroix, Le trait romantique, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 6 avril-12 juillet 1998.

Technical description

  • Eugène DELACROIX (Charenton-Saint-Maurice, 1798 - Paris, 1863)

    Frightened Horse Emerging from the Water

  • Lithograph on China paper; first state before letters

  • Gift of Baron Vitta to the Société des Amis d’Eugène Delacroix, 1934

    MD 2002-45

  • The Musée National Eugène-Delacroix

Practical information

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75006 Paris
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