Jacques-Louis David

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The leading figure of the Neoclassicism school of art, Jacques-Louis David is considered one of those supreme breed of artists who made a mark during the most turbulent times in history – the French revolution. David’s paintings are rich in style comprising of scrupulous contours, sculptures, and very polished surfaces. David was also a very vocally political, despite being present in very difficult times; his paintings often portrayed the tumultuous scenario of France. He had made such a mark that he was in demand from emperors, to kings and even radical revolutionaries. One of David’s key strengths as an artist – which also won him respect – was that he wasn’t afraid of the chaotic times which surrounded France back then, and never shied away from making his opinions clear.

Jacques-Louis David was born on August 30, 1748 in Paris, France and had a difficult childhood. Being abandoned by his mother after his father was killed and David was raised by relatives. He developed a strange liking to art from a young age and was never found without a sketch pencil or brush. There is a classic severity associated with all of David’s works, and he worked mostly with warm colors. Due to his support towards the French Revolution most of David’s paintings are marked in a steep veracity of that time. He did eventually move away from this serious style and showed a softer side in some of his paintings; his work Cupid and Psyche is almost poetic in many ways. The work is centered around two figures, one male and the other female, both nude and casually laying down on a divan. The paintings has a very ethereal quality to it which only adds to David’s versatility but there are very few similar works of his which show he was more interested in chronicling the French Revolution through his art. He has been even dubbed by some historians as the ‘official painter’ of the French Revolution.

Another distinct quality of David was that he always stayed true to his art; he considered it every artist’s moral responsibility to be true to their art style. That is why his paintings stand out so much compared to other artists. His devotion to art and his morals was so strong that David was even imprisoned for a while for refusing to change his painting style and making them less political. David’s vivid painting the Death of Socrates is considered by many as a neoclassical masterpiece. Taken straight out of the literature the painting is a powerful political manifesto and David has utilized the perfect blend of bright and dull colors to accentuate the figures of the canvas. The painting’s messages were clear, it was a voice against corruption and highlighted the sacrifices of the hero who gives up his own life to protect his family and country – it was very reminiscent of the political situation of France that time. So powerful were David’s paintings that they inspired a generation of neoclassical artists like Francois Gerard, Baron Antoine, Jean Gros and Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson. Similar to this work are his paintings of Death of Marat and Napoleon Crossing the Alps – all provocative and having very bold statements. Jacques-Louis David’s paintings showcase an artist who had little interest in instigating political propaganda and instead opted for telling the tale as it is – good or bad.

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