If there is a painter who represents like no other the essence of French neoclassicism, that is Jacques-Louis David. His great source of inspiration was Greco-Roman Antiquity and left countless sublime works. We will know more about the life and work of this artist.
Who was Jacques-Louis David
He was born in Paris in 1748, in a wealthy family. As a child, he was orphaned as a father and his mother would leave him in charge of two uncles, who were architects. But despite that, he never wanted to follow in his footsteps. He was not a good student and soon showed that he had a gift: painting.«The Rapture of the Sabines»
After overcoming the resistance of his family, entered the workshop of François Boucher, to later attend the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. But his goal was to get a scholarship to the French Academy in Rome, he got it on the fifth attempt and after starring in a hunger strike in protest of rejections.
It was in Italy where he would soak up the influences that would mark his style: the great masterpieces and the ruins of the ancient Roman Empire. David would be enchanted by Rafael's work and, especially, the majesty of the city of Pompeii.
Years later, Jacques-Louis David returned to France, where he continued to prosper. The artist would support revolutionary ideas and he would work on his propaganda. After that time he was imprisoned, but he resurfaced with the arrival of Napoleon, who made him an official painter. The return of the Bourbons meant his exile in Brussels, where he would die in 1825.
Jacques-Louis David and his most famous works
The works of this precocious genius that nobody could imitate are almost uncountable, since their details and perfection were unmatched. Some of them marked his career in a prestigious way. We are going to highlight only four of Jacques-Louis David's great works.
The Oath of the Horatii
This was one of the first works he performed, besides being one of those who contributed to his take off as an artist. In fact, it led him to become the most important painter of the moment in the world.
The picture is an allegory of loyalty to the State over any other issue. Three brothers take an oath while several women who cry around show desolation and sadness in the face of battle and death.
Death of Socrates
This picture reflects the acceptance of death by the philosopher. In fact, while some of the characters around him cry or cover their faces sadly, Socrates seems almost indifferent. Remember that the philosopher was sentenced to die drinking hemlock for, supposedly, corrupting the Athenian youth.
The exceptional placement of the figures that star in the painting and the light effects make the scene totally realistic.
«If the work is poor, the public's taste soon does it justice. And the author, reaping glory or fortune, will learn from hard experience how to correct his mistakes. »
Napoleon crossing the Alps
As we have pointed out, Jacques-Louis David was one of the artists of Napoleon's court. The genius painted two works of the emperor that became famous: Napoleon crossing the Alps Y Napoleon's coronation.
This table shows the power and courage of Napoléon riding his horse, always ready to fight the toughest battles. On the ground there is an inscription that refers to Carlo Magno and implies that at that time Napoleon was the hero of France.
In this work the most illustrious characters of the time are portrayed, like the pope or the bishop of Paris. A work that teaches a clear contrast between the attitudes of the general public and the coldness of the ecclesiastics. It was considered the best fusion art work between Baroque and modernism.
As you see, Jacques-Louis David set a precedent with his works and his way of seeing art. It is undoubtedly a character that is worth following the trail on some of our trips. Do you dare to do it?