Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), Two Farm Horses by a Barn, c. 1825-27. Oil on panel, 40.5 x 63.5 cm © Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Neue Pinakothek, Munich.

MUNICH.- Christoph Heilmann, a curator at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen from 1975 until 2000, has presented the Neue Pinakothek with an important painting by the French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix. The picture depicts two horses in front of a stable, set in an expansive landscape, and may have been painted during the artist’s trip to England in 1825. As such, the collection of French Romantic painting at the Neue Pinakothek has now been further expanded to include a major work from the artist’s early period. 

Eugène Delacroix is one of the most important French artists of the 19th century. Born into an educated family in Paris in 1798, he trained in the studio of the history painter Pierre-Narcisse Guérin where he met Théodore Géricault, several years his senior. In 1822 Delacroix celebrated a considerable success at the Salon with ‘The Barque of Dante’; in 1824 he exhibited his ‘Massacre of Chios’, in 1827 ‘The Death of Sardanapalus’ and, in 1831, ‘Liberty Leading the People’ – all emphatically moving paintings that caused a sensation and established his position as a leading history painter and the artistic antithesis to the cool Classicist Ingres. His trips to England in 1825 and to Spain and Morocco in 1832 had a far-reaching influence on his artistic output. From the 1830s onwards Delacroix was preoccupied with painting a series of large works to decorate public buildings in Paris such as the Louvre. He died in Paris in 1863, much admired and revered as a role model by the younger generation of artists. 

Up until now the Neue Pinakothek has held four paintings by Delacroix in its collection. These principally reflect his interest in literary material: ‘The Death of Valentine’, created around 1826 while intensively studying Goethe’s ‘Faust’, ‘The Death of Ophelia’, inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, ‘Clorinda Rescues Olindo and Sophronia’ taken from a scene in Tasso’s epic ‘Jerusalem Delivered’ and a copy based on Rubens’ ‘Boar Hunt’. The new acquisition reveals a different facet in the artist’s œuvre that has been missing to date in the collection: the realistic, sensitive and superbly executed depiction of simple creatures in their surroundings. The two horses, a grey and a black, have just returned from working the fields and are waiting to have their harnesses removed. Delacroix creates the two animals, the landscape and the wall of the stable in impulsive brushstrokes that reveal his masterly treatment in capturing a motif merely through colour. In its powerful rendition of farmhorses in their everyday environment the painting is close to the works of his friend, Géricault, while likewise exhibiting an affinity with contemporary English painting. 

In future the painting will set a new, pronounced accent in Room 10 in the Neue Pinakothek among works by French Romantic artists and Early Realism. The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen are extremely pleased to receive such a generous gift and are sincerely grateful for this new addition. 

Christoph Heilmann worked at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen from 1970 onwards and was in charge of the department ‘Art in the first half of the 19th century’ from 1975 until 2000. From 1982 he acted as the spokesperson for the Neue Pinakothek. After retiring, he founded the Christoph Heilmann Foundation in 2003 in which he included paintings from his private collection of early 19th-century landscape painting that has been on permanent loan to the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus since 2013. 

The artwork will be on view in the Neue Pinakothek from May 4rd 2017 onwards.