- NAME: Jacques-Louis David
- OCCUPATION: Painter
- BIRTH DATE: August 30, 1748
- DEATH DATE: December 29, 1825
- EDUCATION: Collège des Quatre-Nations, Académie Royale (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
- PLACE OF DEATH: Brussels, Belgium
- Nickname: "Father of the Whole Modern School"
- Full Name: Jacques-Louis David
Best Known For
Jacques-Louis David was a 19th century painter who is considered to be the principal proponent of the Neoclassical style, which moved art briskly away from the previous Rococo period. His most famous works include "The Death of Marat" and "Napoleon Crossing the Alps."
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Born in 1748 in Paris, France, Jacques-Louis David became a painter of great renown as his style of history painting helped end the frivolity of the Rococo period, moving art back to the realm of classical austerity. One of David's most famous works, "The Death of Marat" (1793), portrays the famous French Revolutionary figure dead in his bath after an assassination. He died in Brussels, Belgium, in 1825.
"The art of antiquity will not seduce me, for it lacks liveliness."
Jacques-Louis David was born on August 30, 1748, in Paris, France. His father was killed in a duel in when David was 9 years old, and the boy was subsequently left by his mother to be raised by two uncles.
When David showed an interest in painting, his uncles sent him to François Boucher, a leading painter of the time and family friend. Boucher was a Rococo painter, but the Rococo era was giving way to a more classical style, so Boucher decided to send David to his friend Joseph-Marie Vien, a painter more in tune with the neoclassical reaction to Rococo.
By age 18, the gifted young artist was enrolled at the Académie Royale (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture). After several failures in competitions and finding more discouragement than support, during a period that included a suicide attempt (apparently by avoiding food), in 1774, he finally obtained the Prix de Rome, a government scholarship that ensured well-paid commissions in France. Also included in the scholarship was a trip to Italy, and in 1775, he and Vien went to Rome together, where David studied Italian masterpieces and the ruins of ancient Rome.
Before he left Paris, he proclaimed, "The art of antiquity will not seduce me, for it lacks liveliness," and the works of the great masters almost held him to his word, such was the pull of their genius. Instead, though, he became interested in the Neoclassical ideas originated in Rome by, among others, German painter Anton Raphael Mengs and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann.
Back in Paris in 1780, and to much acclaim, David exhibited "Belisarius Asking Alms," in which he combined his own approach to antiquity with a Neoclassical style reminiscent of Nicolas Poussin. In 1782, David married Marguerite Pécoul, whose father was an influential building contractor and the superintendent of construction at the Louvre. David began to prosper at this point, and he was elected to the Académie Royale in 1784 on the heels of his "Andromache Mourning Hector."
That same year, David returned to Rome to complete "Oath of the Horatii," whose austere visual treatment—somber color, frieze-like composition and clear lighting—was a sharp departure from the prevailing Rococo style of the time. Exhibited in the official Paris Salon of 1785, the painting created a sensation and was regarded as a declaration of an artistic movement (revival, in fact) that would put an end to the delicate frivolity of the Rococo period. It also came, before too long, to symbolize the end of aristocratic corruption and a return in France to the patriotic morals of republican Rome.
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