Art Under Napoleon

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  • Topic: First French Empire, Jean-Paul Marat, The Death of Marat
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ART UNDER NAPOLEON
Brenda Tidwell
Art Appreciation 101
Jamie Cooper
October 31, 2011

ART UNDER NAPOLEON
In 1794 Jacques-Louis David barely escapes death, due to his connections in the revolutionary war. He stood trial and went to prison. After his release he worked hard to reconstitute his career. The highlight of his career is when Napoleon asked Jacques-Louis David to work for him. Of course David accepted. Napoleon knew that David was a very accomplished artist, whom style was Neoclassical-Idealist painter. Napoleon favored painting of the classical times and of the Roman renaissance masters (Kleiner 2006). In reading, we will compare paintings by David, The Oath of Horatti and the Coronation of Napoleon. He also conquered enlightenment, so each subject matter to be of a moral, noble standing and conflict. David was born in Paris on August 30, 1748. His well to do parents sent him to school with the rococo manner, his eminent painter Francois Boucher, to whom David was apparently distantly related. Perhaps because of his own advancement David study under Joseph Vien, a painter who had been attracted by the new wave of interest in antiquity while study in Rome. In 1771 David won second place in the Prix de Rome completion. It was not until 3 years later and after some severe mental frustrations that he won the first prize for the painting Antiochus Dying for Love of Stratonice (Anonymous, 2011). David went to Rome in 1775 in the company of Vien; David studied the ancient architectural monuments, marble reliefs and freestanding statues. In addition, he strove for a clearer understanding of the classical principles under laying the styles of the Renaissance and baroque masters Raphael, the Carracci, Domenichino, and Guido Reni. He was admitted to the French academy in1783 with his painting, Andromache by the Hector (Anonymous, 2011). When the French war broke out in 1789, David threw in his lot with the Jacobins, the radical and militant revolutionary faction. He accepted the role of de facto minister of propaganda; He arranged political pageants, and ceremonies that included floats, costumes, and sculptural props. David believed that art could play an important role in educating the public and that dramatic paintings emphasizing patriotism and civic virtue would prove effective as rallying calls. However, rather than continuing to create artworks focused on scenes from antiquity, David began to portray scenes from the French Revolution itself. David intended Death of Marat not only to serve as a record of an important event in the struggle to overthrow the monarchy but also to provide inspiration and encouragement to the revolutionary forces. A writer friend of David’s was tragically killed; he depicted his friend’s death into that portrait (Kleiner, 2006). His friend was named Charlotte Corday (1768-1793) a member of a rival political faction, stabbed him to death in his medicinal bath. (He suffered from a painful skin disease.) David presented the scene with directness and clarity. The cold neutral space above Marat’s figure slumped in the tub produces a chilling oppressiveness. The painter vividly placed narrative details-the knife, the wound, the blood, the letter with which the young woman gained entrance-to sharpen the sense of pain an outrage and to comfort viewers with the scene itself. Death of Marat is convincingly real and yet David masterfully composed the painting to present Marat as a tragic martyr who died in the service of the revolution (Kleiner, 2006). The following year David returned to Rome to paint Oath of Horatti, a work in which immediately acclaimed a masterpiece both in Italy and in France. There are more to come within the next five years. With the French revolution in full swing, David for a time stopped painting with his classical approach and began to paint scenes describing contemporary events. David began to paint martyred heroes in the...
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