Jacques-Louis David

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Related to Jacques-Louis David: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Antonio Canova

David, Jacques-Louis

(zhäk-lwē` dävēd`), 1748–1825, French painter. David was the virtual art dictator of France for a generation. Extending beyond painting, his influence determined the course of fashion, furniture design, and interior decoration and was reflected in the development of moral philosophy. His art was a sudden and decisive break with tradition, and from this break "modern art" is dated.

David studied with VienVien, Joseph-Marie
, 1716–1809, French neoclassical painter. A protégé of the comte de Caylus, he won the Prix de Rome and studied in Italy. He was appointed director of the French Academy in Rome in 1775. He is best known as Jacques-Louis David's teacher.
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 at the French Academy, and after winning the Prix de Rome (which had been refused him four times, causing him to attempt suicide by starvation) he accompanied Vien to Italy in 1775. His pursuit of the antique, nurtured by his time in Rome and his viewing of the ruins at Pompeii and Herculaneum, directed the classical revival in French art. He borrowed classical forms and motifs, predominantly from sculpture, to illustrate a sense of virtue he mistakenly attributed to the ancient Romans. Consumed by a desire for perfection and by a passion for the political ideals of the French Revolution, David imposed a fierce discipline on the expression of sentiment in his work. This inhibition resulted in a distinct coldness and rationalism of approach.

David's reputation was made by the Salon of 1784. In that year he produced his first masterwork, The Oath of the Horatii (Louvre). This work and his celebrated Death of Socrates (1787; Metropolitan Mus.) as well as Lictors Bringing to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons (1789; Louvre) were themes appropriate to the political climate of the time. They secured for David vast popularity and success. David was admitted to the Académie royale in 1780 and worked as court painter to the king.

As a powerful republican David, upon being elected to the revolutionary Convention, voted for the king's death and for the dissolution of the Académie royale both in France and in Rome. In his paintings of the Revolution's martyrs, especially in his Marat (1793; Brussels), his iron control is softened and the tragic portraits are moving and dignified. The artist was imprisoned for a time at the end of the Reign of Terror.

David emerged to become First Painter to the emperor and foremost recorder of Napoleonic events (e.g., Napoleon Crossing the Saint Bernard Pass, 1800–01; Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine, 1805–07; and The Distribution of the Eagles, 1810) and a sensitive portraitist (e.g., Mme Récamier, 1800; Louvre). In this period David reached the height of his influence, but his painting, more than ever the embodiment of neoclassical theory, was again static and deadened in feeling. The Battle of the Romans and Sabines (1799; Louvre) portrayed the battle through the use of physically frozen figures.

During the Bourbon Restoration David spent his last years in Brussels, where he painted a masterful series of portraits, mainly of fellow refugees from the Napoleonic court. Although he belittled the genre, it was as a portraitist that he was at his most distinguished. Using living, rather than sculptured models, he allowed his spontaneous sentiment to be revealed in the closely observed portrayals. These last portraits, such as Antoine Mongez and His Wife Angelica (1812; Lille), Bernard (1820; Louvre), and Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte (1821; Getty Mus.) are enormously vital and in them the seeds of the new romanticism are clearly discernible.


See D. L. Dowd, Pageant-Master of the Republic (1948); J. Lindsay, Death of the Hero (1960); W. Roberts, Jacques Louis David, Revolutionary Artist (1989).

References in periodicals archive ?
See David Dowdy, Pageant Master of the Republic: Jacques-Louis David and the French Revolution (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, c1948).
Four essays deal with high art: two on Jacques-Louis David (including an extremely self-conscious and self-indulgent one on -- appropriately, perhaps -- self-portraiture, by T.
The understated star of Treasures, Princely Taste (Sotheby's London; 4 July) is a handsome gilt-bronze-mounted mahogany circular table designed by Jacques-Louis David and made, most likely, by the cabinetmaker Georges Jacob, dated c.
In contrast, Jacques-Louis David shows us an awe-inspiring Napoleon riding to battle on a too-small horse in Napoleon Crossing the St.
Great ideas and great deeds were produced by great men and, as Praz noted in a 1974 essay on Jacques-Louis David, artists associated with Neoclassicism were obsessed with the representation of man as hero.
THE LATE WORK OF JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID (1748-1825) has not been showered with scholarly attention.
French Drawings in the Age of Greuze'' assembles 33 pieces by such artists as Francois Boucher, Jean-Antoine Watteau, Gabriel de Saint-Aubin and Jacques-Louis David.
When he started his career in Paris in the years around 1820, the prevailing order, the order of Jacques-Louis David and Baron Gros, in whose academy he studied, was being attacked by a generation of young artists and writers who no longer admired the academic, the finished, the classical, but wanted to express themselves directly and spontaneously in works that reflected not art but nature.
The Sisters Zenaide and Charlotte Bonaparte,'' Jacques-Louis David, 1821.
Vasari refers to the rinascita or rebirth of classical knowledge, and what later came to be known as the renaissance continued to exert influence at least until the early 19th century, when Jacques-Louis David testified to Raphael's influence in opening up the wonders of antiquity to him.
Since then I have come across a number of other books by art historians investigating the same period: Male Trouble: A Crisis in Representation by Abigail Solomon-Godeau (Thames & Hudson, and Necklines: The Art of Jacques-Louis David after the Terror by Ewa Lajer-Burcharth (Yale University Press, 1999).
There were discoveries, too, made by more familiar dealers, among them Paris dealer Eric Coatalem's wonderful Greuze oil study of a head of a boy and an important Jacques-Louis David sheet of pen-and ink-studies for his Le Serment du Jeu de Paume.