Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Episode 101: Jacques-Louis David: Neoclassical Painter and Revolutionary

This week we have a special guest, our very own Courtney Davis, who is an Assistant Professor of Art History here at UVU. Courtney has been our special guest a couple of times now so she's a pro at this podcasting thing and it was lots of fun having her back, especially to talk about the subject of David.

Self Portrait, 1794, Louvre

Jacques-Louis David was quite a character. Not only was he a talented artist but he was also a political revolutionary who was very luck to have survived the French Revolution with his head still attached!

David was born in Paris in 1748 and died exiled in Brussels in 1825. His father was a prosperous textile merchant who was killed in a dual when David was only ten years old, leaving him to be raised by his uncles.
He studied the classics and drawing and was apprenticed to Joseph-Marie Vien who was a history painter.

At the age of 18 David entered the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. After four failed attempts to win the Prix de Rome he finally won in 1774 with his painting, Antiochus and Stratonice.

Antiochus and Stratonice, 1774,  École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts
The Prix de Rome sent David to Italy where he studied Poussin and Caravaggio. He was very taken with Caravaggio's use of light and shadow, but his style is more classical like Poussin. It was also in Italy where he became interested in neoclassicism, a style that he would make popular in France. While in Italy David visited Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as the Doric Temples at Paestum which greatly influenced his art.

Poussin, Et in Arcadia ego, 1637 & Caravaggio, Calling of St. Matthew, 1599

He returned to Paris and married Marguerite Pécoul in 1782. She would divorce him after he voted for the execution of Louis XVI in 1792 and remarry him after his imprisonment in 1794.

David, Portrait of Marguerite Pecoul David, 1813

In 1784 he was elected into the Académie Royale for his painting Andromache Mourning Hector. This same year he returned to Italy where he painted Oath of the Horatii.

David, Andromache Mourning Hector, 1783, Louvre

David, Oath of the Horatii, 1784, Louvre
Courtney's head in the blue hat!
Oath of the Horatii was painted while David was in Rome, it is said to be inspired by the play Horace, but there is actually nothing in the painting related to the play at all. The use of rich yet somber colors, bare cubic space, clear lighting and linear perspective are the epitome of David's neoclassical style.

David, Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, 1789

David, Portrait of Monsieur de Lavoisier and Wife, 1788
David is known for his historical paintings but his bread and butter was portraiture. This charming portrait of renowned French scientist Monsieur de Lavoisier and his wife is an excellent example of David's talent. You will have to listen to the podcast to get Courtney's full run down on this lovely painting, but I must say Monsieur de Lavoisier turns a fine ankle. :)

David, Death of Marat, 1793, Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Belgium

Jean-Paul Marat was a physician and radical politician during the French Revolution. He called himself a "Friend to the People" but he was responsible for thousands of beheading's at the guillotine, possibly including Monsieur de Lavoisier from the painting above. David was a friend of Marat's and is responsible for this fantastic work of propaganda. Marat was stabbed and killed by Charlotte Corday while he was in the bath.

David, Coronation of Napoleon, 1805-07, Louvre

Left: Show for scale. Right: A close up 
Napoleon was an ambitious young general who decided he wanted to be Emperor of France. This painting depicts the moment when Napoleon crowns his wife Josephine. The story goes that Napoleon brought the Pope from Italy to crown him Emperor, but as the Pope is placing the crown upon Napoleon's head, he takes it from the Pope and crowns himself.

This painting shows the transition between old France and new France. You can see the blue and gold of the monarchy and the red and yellow of Napoleon as well as the old symbol of the fleur de lis and Napoleon's symbol of the honeybee. All the people to the left of Napoleon are his supports, all the people to the right are the Catholic clergy. David also added Napoleon's mother into the painting, she hadn't been at the coronation.

Here is the link for the Rococo episode: http://artsandfacts.blogspot.com/2013/01/episode-51-rococo-and-whimsical.html

We hope you enjoyed this weeks podcast! Next week Carolyne and I (Julia) will be talking about the color Blue.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Very interesting article. Just a precision about the Andromaque: the picture you're showing in the post is a sketch, & it belongs to the Pushkin museum. The final paint, the one exhibited at the Louvre, is slightly different; you can see it here: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ce/d2/d2/ced2d27d4a7f3d2539cfd547949da2a6.jpg


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