Art Appreciation - Anger of Achilles Painting

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On my mission to find a painting that either caught my eye or would stop me dead in my tracks, I discovered “The Anger of Achilles.” This oil painting seemed to call me hither to take a closer look. As I walked closer, the painting became more clear and vivid. It was as if Jacques-Louis David was oil painting in high definition. This is a stunningly clear oil painting. So clear, it resembles a modern day photograph. The expression on the faces of each character in this painting drew me in even more. I wanted to know more: Why? Who? What was about to happen? At first glance, it seemed as though the woman in the background, Clytemnestra the mother, is being disturbed. King Agamemnon, the man portrayed in the foreground, appears to be directing the soldier, Achilles, as he is about to strike. After reading the history behind the painting, I better understand the expressions shown and see how they enhance the story that David is portraying.

According to Greek Mythology, Achilles was supposed to be made invincible by dipping him in the river Styx, but forgot to wet the heel she held him by, leaving him vulnerable, so he could be killed by a blow to that heel. (1) Thus the term “Achilles heel” was originated. David was very successful in showing the anguished Clytemnestra. It appeared she was at the brink of tears; or had been crying. It also appears as though she was deeply saddened by her daughter, Iphigenia’s situation.

David is recognized as one of the most influential French painters in the neoclassical era. He participated in the French Revolution and taught several pupils in the early 19th century. In June 1825, David embarked upon improving the 1819 version of his “Anger of Achilles.” David told his friends, “This painting is what is killing me.” In October of that same year, he died.

This particular painting is portraying deep anger, anguish, fear, and authority. I believe he wanted to show the anger and disappointment of Achilles;...
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