Were it not for the encouragement of an uncle Delacroix might have been a writer, not the greatest of all French Romantic painters. When he was aged twenty-three he exhibited this painting at a salon, and promptly sold it to the new revolutionary government. It depicts the point at which the characters enter through the gates of hell. I find it remarkably well conceived for such a young man, and not bad for an orphan living in tough times either.
Delacroix used his art as an excuse to travel, visiting North Africa, Spain and England in the course of a career spanning hundreds of paintings. He also accepted commissions to decorate grand buildings such as the Library at the Palais du Luxembourg and the Church of St. Denis du Saint Sacrement where his work may still be seen.
Sadly, the physical effort of creating compositions on a grand scale irreparably damaged his health. He spent his final years painting pictures in a cottage in the French countryside, guarded and cherished by loyal housekeeper who was his lifetime companion, and liberated his creative muse.