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Jacques-Louis David

Jacques-Louis  David

(1748 - 1825)
Born: Paris, France
Style: Neoclassicism
Famous Works:
  • The Oath of the Horatii (1784)
  • The Death of Marat (1793)
  • Napoleon Crossing the St. Bernard Pass (c.1801)
Jacques-Louis David's extraordinary career as a painter and politician was set within a period of great upheaval and change in Revolutionary France. The young David studied under Joseph-Marie Vien, a French Neoclassicist, and then went on to paint at the French Academy in Rome for five years after winning the Prix de Rome. Classical Roman history served as a profound source of interest and inspiration for David, in accordance with the established hierarchy of seventeenth-century, neoclassical painting in France. At the time, history was considered the most worthwhile subject, followed by genre (pictures from everyday life), portrait, landscape, and still life. David often took contemporary political events and disguised them as historical paintings, as many artists did in the years before and after the French Revolution of 1789. He felt responsible to France to document historic events of the time in his paintings. His 1793 painting, The Death of Marat, depicts revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, dead, stabbed to death in his bath by a young woman. David was a friend of Marat, and immortalized him by presenting the historical portrait to the National Assembly of France. The painting was so influential that it became a symbol of the Revolution. David's political career was hardly finished at this point, and he was named the court painter for Napoleon in 1804. He completed several painting for the leader, and, after Napoleon was exiled, David fled to Italy, where he painted portraits and mythological works.
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