- NAME: Jacques-Louis David
- OCCUPATION: Painter
- BIRTH DATE: August 30, 1748
- DEATH DATE: December 29, 1825
- EDUCATION: College 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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In 1787, David displayed "Death of Socrates." Two year later, in 1789, he unveiled "The Lictors Bringing to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons." At this point, the French Revolution had begun, and, thusly, this portrayal of Brutus—the patriotic Roman consul who ordered the deaths of his traitorous sons to save the republic—took on political significance, as did David himself.
In the early years of the Revolution, Jacque-Louis David was a member of the extremist Jacobin group led by Maximilien de Robespierre, and he became an active, politically committed artist involved in a good deal of revolutionary propaganda. He produced such works as "Joseph Bara", the sketched "Oath of the Tennis Court" and "Death of Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau" during this period, all with revolutionary themes marked by martyrdom and heroics in the face of the establishment.
David's revolutionary inspiration is ultimately best represented by "The Death of Marat," painted in 1793, soon after the murder of revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat. This so-called "piet of the Revolution" is considered David's masterpiece. As one modern critic put it, the piece is "a moving testimony to what can be achieved when an artist's political convictions are directly manifested in his work." Marat became an instant political martyr while the painting became a symbol of sacrifice in the name of the republic.
Elected to the National Convention in 1792, David voted for the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. By 1793, David, having gained much power through his association with Robespierre, was effectively the art dictator of France. Once in this role, he promptly abolished the Académie Royale (whether out of spite for his struggles there years before, or by a desire for a complete overhaul of every system in place, remains unclear).
By 1794, Robespierre and his revolutionary allies had gone too far in silencing counter-revolutionary voices, and the people of France began to question his authority. In July of that year, it came to a head, and Robespierre was sent to the guillotine. David was arrested, remaining in prison until the amnesty of 1795.
Upon release, David devoted his time to teaching. With the same energy he had spent on revolutionary politics, he trained hundreds of young European painters, among them such future masters as Franois Gérard and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. (Some 60 years later, Eugene Delacroix would refer to David as the "father of the whole modern school.") He also became the official painter of Napoleon I.
David had admired Napoleon since their first meeting, and sketched him for the first time in 1797. After Napoleon's coup in 1799, he commissioned David to commemorate his crossing of the Alps: David painted "Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard" (also known as "Napoleon Crossing the Alps"). Napoleon named David court painter in 1804.
After Napoleon fell in 1815, David was exiled to Brussels, Belgium, where he lost much of his old creative energy.
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