Jacques-Louis David

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
Related to Jacques-Louis David: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Antonio Canova

David, Jacques-Louis

David, Jacques-Louis (zhäk-lwēˈ dävēdˈ), 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 Vien 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, 1800–1801; Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine, 1805–7; 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(2.) See Philippe Bordes, Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile, exh.
But passion returned with a vengeance with Jacques-Louis David and the French Revolution, which saw the emergence of revolutionary nationalism and huge armies.
As a class assignment, Marlis once painted herself into a famous 18th century painting, Jacques-Louis David's "The Death of Marat." It shows the dead body of assassinated French radical Jean-Paul Marat in the bathtub where he spent much of his life.
As a history major, I did my senior honors thesis on Jacques-Louis David and the French Revolution.
Jacques-Louis David, whose album of antiquity sketches helps close the exhibition, became the preeminent artist of neoclassicism and the propagandist for the revolution.
The artists in question order are, i) Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), ii) Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), iii) Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), iv) Edvar Munch (1863-1944), v) Jan Vermeer (1632-75), and vi) Camille Pissarro (1830-1903).
68) simply will not survive Warren Roberts's magisterial interpretation of the painting's ambiguities and instabilities, grounded in contemporary ideological tensions and the artist's own psychic particularity, in his Jacques-Louis David, Revolutionary Artist (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1989).
Illuminated by Nicolas Ponce-Camus, a student of Jacques-Louis David, under the direction of the Order's founder, J.
Damian Sutton gets "Inside the 'Black Box': From Jacques-Louis David to Ridley Scott" and Scott's film Gladiator (2000).
The portrait shames its neighbour, the portrait of the marquise d'Orvilliers delineated, with his usual coarse, unvisionary veracity and unselective minuteness, by Jacques-Louis David.
In this interactive feature on NGAkids, young students discover how Jacques-Louis David used symbols in his painting of Napoleon to influence viewers' opinions of the emperor.
A brush with Napoleon; an encounter with Jacques-Louis David. (Art Encounter.) Watson-Guptill.