Art During The French Revolution Essay Research

Art During The French Revolution Essay, Research Paper

Art as an Influence During The French Revolution

And Post Revolution

The French Revolution (1789-1799) was not only a time for political and social changes, but also a place for art to develop and influence the revolution as well. Art was such an influential factor on the public that the paintings were able to change and strengthen the revolutionary movement. The artist s main focus before the revolution was romanticism, but Jacques-Louis David s neoclassical style of art was used as a method to influence political thoughts and creative expression. Realism was introduced later on as a method of showing realistic people during realistic events. Other artists who contributed to the revolution and post revolution era were painters like Jean Auguste Dominique, Eugene Delacroix, and Francisco Jos De Goya Y Lucientes. These artists are Known for their variety of artistic styles : Classicallism, Romanticism, and Realism. During the French Revolution paintings were done purposely, and some not on purpose, to back up the revolutionaries or to scandalize the aristocracy. Such use of art might have changed the outcome of the Revolution, thus demonstating the great impact amongst the French population.

Jacques-Louis David was born into a middle-class family in Paris in 1748. In 1774 he was introduced to classical art by the works of Nicolas Poussin. He then developed his own neoclassical style of art which was an excellent medium for political expression during the French Revolution. Jacques-Louis David s The Oath Horatii was used as art for a political campaign as a patriotic theme. Not all of David s paintings were destined for political expression, but his painting Le Serment des Horaces , who was originally used for moral purposes, was interpreted as an attempt for political expression. When David painted Brutus and his dead sons in 1789, when the revolution had just began, some people interpreted the patriotic roman putting his sons to death as having political significance while the roman s attire and furnishings was an influence on French fashion.

David later adopted a realistic painting style to record scenes of the French Revolution. David himself was part of the rising era of turmoil and uncertainty. Member of the extremist Jacobin group headed by Robespierre, David was elected to the National Convention on September 17th, 1792 and was later appointed to the Committee of General Security, where he signed the release for three hundred people to be guillotined. Being a part of the Convention David was known as the art dictator, so he then abolished the Academy of painting. He also helped found a Museum, which would later become the Louvre.

David s greatest political painting was The Death of Marat . Being a good friend of Marat, David did not paint a diseased body, but yet he hid his disease infested body in the tub covered the scars on his face by giving it shadow, therefore he painted that of a healthy, young man who was lying dead in his bath. This painting is world renown for its realism. David s use of shadow, the letter that Charlotte Corday brought with her and even the knife that she used to kill him added an extremely realistic view to his painting. One of David s greatest paintings adored by critics may be his painting of Madame Recamier , because it s free from influential moral aspects that were used in his neoclassical techniques.

David later became the official painter of the emperor of France, Napoleon, from 1799 to 1815 where he may be recognized for The Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine . He finally was exiled to Brussels after Napoleon s defeat and stayed there until he died on December 28, 1794.

When the French revolution began the romanticist style of painting was to be forgotten and replaced by the neoclassical and realistic style that was preferred by the public. Jean Auguste Dominique was one of the great ambassadors who opposed the new Romantic Movement driven by Eugene Delacroix. J.A.D. Ingres was taught the neoclassical styles of Jacques Louis David in 1797 and won the Prix de Rome in 1801. He traveled and painted for a period of twenty years. When he returned to Paris in 1824 he became the leader in opposing the Romantic Movement. After a long period in Rome he returned and was praised and was revered as one of the most influential characters who has ever lived; He has influenced such painters as: Degas, Renoir, Matisse, and Picasso.

Eugene Delacroix was born in 1798 towards the end of the French revolution, however, he did have an affect on the artistic movement. At first he was trained under the neoclassical style of Jacques Louis David, but he was later turned on by the more colorful, opulent style of such earlier masters as the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens and the Italian painter Paolo Veronese. He also absorbed the spirit of Theodore Gericault. Delacroix was influenced by the Greek struggle to obtain independence, through this passion he achieved popularity with his interpretation of the Massacre at Chios . 1Delacroix s technique, in which he applied contrasting colors with small strokes of the brush, creating a vibrant effect, was an important influence on impressionists. His most influential painting was Liberty Leading the People , that over-exaggerated the perception of freedom. This painting clearly differentiated the romantic style of painting, 1which emphasized color and spirit, and the concurrent neoclassical (headed by J.A.D. Ingres), which emphasized line and cool detachment.

Francisco Jos De Goya Y Lucientes was born in Spain in 1746. His contribution to the art is said to have been one of the most important towards modern art. His irregular technique broke the barrier that was set up since the renaissance. During his adolescence he traveled to Italy and it was there where Jacques Louis David influenced him. In 1789 Charles IV chose him as the official court painter, where he lavished himself in

Riches. Though his life was glamorous it had to be cut short, he attracted a serious illness that made him deaf and paralyzed him. When Madrid was conquered by Napoleon, Goya accepted the Legion of Honor from Bonaparte for his work on the Disasters of The War paintings. Goya continued painting till he died, using a magnifying glass held by a paralyzed hand.

Art had a huge affect on the French Revolution. The artists used art for political propaganda and as an influence on the people. The people of the revolution were told who to hate and who to love through the artist s depiction of certain events. Once romanticism was no longer in use, the artists quit glorifying paintings and painted realistic images. Jacques Louis David s introduction of neoclassicism was a very influential part of the revolution. He displayed what was happening during the revolution with such emotion, especially with his portrayal of Marat s Death. The perception of reality through art was forever changed.

Romanticism made a strong comeback with Eugene Delacroix as its leader, but neoclassicism was still going strong. The wave of neoclassical painters that David influenced and taught was ravaging the canvases with their style that was preferred by many to romanticism. David still remains one of the stilts that supported the revolution.


Flemming, William. Arts & Ideas. Ohio: Rinehart Winston Inc., 1986.

Roberts, Warren. Jacques Louis David, Revolutionary Artists: Art,

Politics, and The French Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North

Carolina Press, 1989.

Smith, E. Lucie. A Concise History of French Paintings. New

York: Preaeger Publishers, 1981.

Internet: Http:\www.virgo.bibl.u\\art1\cjackson\IDavid\Marat






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