Since the acquisition by his brother, General Charles-Henry Delacroix, of a house near Tours, Eugène Delacroix visited the region several times to stay with him. In 1828, inspired by the region, Delacroix filled a sketchbook, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with landscapes of the Touraine, the banks of the Loire, and some of the monuments of the city, such as the towers of the cathedral of Saint-Gatien (inv. 69.165.2; see J.O. Bouffier in exhib. cat., Tours, op. cit., no. 15, ill.). Folio 12 of this album was used as the basis for the present watercolour, which represents the undulating landscape around Saint- Avertin, a few kilometres from Tours, on the bank of the Cher, as a mosaic of warm colours. The New York sketch, made from life, is not very detailed, but includes written indications of the location of vineyards (‘vignx’ and ‘x’), and colour annotations (j for ‘jaune’, yellow; r for ‘rouge’, red; v for ‘vert’, green; b for ‘bleu’, blue), apparently made with the more finished drawing offered here in mind. The slightly squarer format of the latter opens up the composition, in contrast to the tighter mise-en-page of the sketch.
Four other watercolours can be connected with sketches in the New York sketchbook; one is at the Musée Bonnat-Helleu in Bayonne, the three others in private collections (J.O. Bouffier in exhib. cat., Tours, op. cit., nos. 16, 17, 18, ill., fig. 13). They illustrate Delacroix’s working method in representing nature, which he discusses more broadly in his Journal on 12 October 1853: ‘is it the purpose of imitation to please the imagination, or is it merely intended to obey the demands of a strange kind of conscience which allows an artist to be satisfied with himself when he has copied the model before his eyes as faithfully as possible?’ (Journal, M. Hannoosh, ed., I, Paris, 2009, p. 689; English translation by L. Norton quoted from The Journal of Eugène Delacroix, London, 1995, pp. 209-210). Naturally, Delacroix, the Romantic pur sang, believes that the artist should abandon truth to let his inner poet speak and ‘render a true impression of the subject’ (Delacroix, op. cit., 2009, I, p. 688; translation quoted from Delacroix, op. cit., 1995, p. 208), as he brilliantly did in the present work with its autumnal mood and warm light.