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Those hardest hit by war

Posted June. 22, 2023 07:59,   

Updated June. 22, 2023 07:59


A pretty girl sits alone at a cemetery, her white blouse dropping down from one of her shoulders. Her tearful eyes, full of tears, look upward. What may she be looking at? What has brought her here?

“Orphan Girl at the Cemetery,” painted by Eugène Delacroix in 1824, features a great depth of dimness and loneliness. As the title implies, this girl is left alone without her parents. Given that she is alone even until sundown in the cemetery, she may not have any relatives to turn to or any place to stay.

Delacroix worked on this painting not long after he debuted at the Salon in Paris in his mid-20s. His artistic interests in mythology and literature led the painter to choose related topics over the realities of the 19th century where he lived. Even his first work for the Salon was also inspired by Dante. However, news about the Greek War of Independence made him eager to gain recognition as a history painter by dealing with political events of his time. In April 1822, the Osman Turkish rulers of Greece brutally mass-killed some residents and enslaved others on Chios Island, which immediately enraged many European people, including Delacroix. To reveal the wrongdoings of the killers and warn about the fears and misery of war, he painted a four-meter-high work titled “The Chios Massacre.”

The portrait of the orphan is one of the studies he did before embarking on this large-scale project. This poor girl probably mirrors the fragments of the artist’s childhood days. The young boy, born to an up-class family in Paris, lost his father and mother at the age of 7 and 16, respectively, and ended up being raised by his sister, struggling financially.

Looking upward, her eyes, scared, shed tears. Distressed, she may be looking at the skies, presumably searching for God. Otherwise, might she feel resentful about Him? This miserable painting only reminds us that the weakest are most devastated by war.