Art Under Napoleon

Published: 2021-09-13 11:15:10
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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 fight for freedom (Galitz, 2004). Napoleon hired Jacques-Louis David to paint for all his empire desires and aspirations. These paintings were emotional works of art, not only did David portray the feelings of the characters inside the paintings perfectly, and he was also able to create deep emotions with his audiences as well. Unfortunately David’s paintings showed wars and the results of them were brutal.
David’s most famous paintings of the time were the Oath of Horatti and Coronation of Napoleon, and they were obviously painted for political propaganda purposes because of their content. Napoleon Bonaparte was born in France in the year of 1769 and grew up to over throw the Monarchy. In 1799, after serving in various French army commands, including major campaigns in Italy and Egypt, Napoleon became first consul of the French Republic, a title with clear and intentional links to the ancient Rome Republic. In May 1804, he became the King of Italy. Napoleon was very aware of David’s talents.
He knew David had a sharp “understanding of cult of political personality and the sophisticated craft of shaping public image” (Anonymous, 2001). The Coronation of Napoleon was the name of the painting done for the new Emperor of France. The celebration was held at the Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral on December 1804 (Kleiner, 2006). In the painting, David, has painted the Pius lifting his hands in a half-hearted blessing gesture. He also lowers the Popes chair so that Napoleon’s would appear relatively larger, with his back symbolically turned towards the dwarfed and older man.
It also included 150 guests from pomp and pageantry, to help in celebration. In this painting Napoleons mother was late arriving in Paris (in time to miss it) but Napoleon, instructed David to paint her in. David painted Josephine (Napoleons wife) with her kneeling to receive her crown. David does make other adjustments to the paintings to make her look better for his works. David conceptually divided the painting to reveal polarities. David painted the pope, priests, representing the Catholic Church on one right, contrasting with members of the Imperial court on the left.
For the painting commemorating the occasion, the emperor insisted that David depict the moment when, having already crowned himself which create more tension between state and church Napoleon placed a wreath upon his wife’s head, further underscoring his authority even more (Galitz, 2004). This focus on Josephine’s crowing, some historians believe, was also away to highlight the future of Napoleonic Empire. This was the woman after all, who would (theoretically) bear Napoleon’s heir. To that end, David painted the 41 year old Empress to appear much younger than she does in a far more sensitive, intimate pencil sketch.
When a visitor to his studio noted that David had made Josephine look in the final painted version-where she loses the double chin from the tender drawing-the painter retorted: “Eh bien, allez le lul dirre! (Yeah? Go tell that to her that) (Anonymous, 2011). Others in attendance of the festivities and the painting was, besides Napoleon and his wife Josephine and Pope Pius VII others were Joseph and Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon’s ministers, the retinues of the emperor and empress, and a representative group of clergy, as well as
David himself, seated among the rows of spectators in the balconies. Despite the artist’s apparent fidelity to historical fact studies show that David made adjustments to his drawing at Napoleons request. An example, he had David paint the pope’s hand in a blessing position, and his mother to be painted in the center background when in fact she was not in company (Kleiner, 2006). Although David had to incorporate numerous figures in lavish pageantry in his painting, he retained the structured composition central to the Neo-classical style of painting.
Like his Oath of the Horatii, David presented the action as if it were on theater stage, which in this instance it is literally the case, even if the stage Percier and Fontaine constructed was inside a church. In addition, as he did in his arrangements of men and women in the Oath of Horatii. David conceptually divided the painting to reveal polarizers (he divided them into sections. ) The pope, prelates, and priests representing the Catholic Church appear on the right, contrasting with members of Napoleon’s Imperial court on the left. The relationship between church and state was one of this period’s most contentious issues.
Napoleon’s decision to crown himself, rather than to allow the people to perform the coronation, as was traditional, reflected Napoleon’s concern about the power relationship between church and state. For the painting commemorating the occasion, the emperor insisted that Napoleon places a crown on his wife’s head, further underscoring his authority. Thus the painting represents a visual document in the tradition of history. It is also a more complex statement about the changing politics in Napoleonic France (Kleiner, 2006). Artists also will use devices to help in the development of a painting.
Some use dramatic, mythology, poetry, and situations for ideas. When painting, no one model (figure) is dominate. They will even hire models to pose for them; it may take hours maybe even days of sitting in the same place in the same pose before the artist is finished. They will make their own props; by sewing clothing or hats to make a scene complete. David having had experience with the military and now working with Napoleon had the tools and experience for his first place painting the Oath of Horatii which brought him much fame and fortune (Haggo, 2010). David’s painting of the Oath of Horatti was completed in 1784.
David embodies the neo-classical style in this painting as well as the Coronation of Napoleon. The Oath of Horatti illustrates the event written in the Livy’s history of Rome. This painting was an instant success and was proclaimed “the importance of reason and the intellect over and above feeling and sentiment, and it defended the ideals of male and self- sacrifice in the interest of one’s country” (Tate, B. 2011). In the painting of the Oath of Horatti, we look upon a scene in ancient Rome, In a Roman families’ dispute. David presents the sons individuals by stressing differences in facial features and uniforms.
But the threat to their country demands the suppression of individually. To underline the son’s solidarity, David gives them almost identical poses. We come to the house of Horatti, with three brothers are standing together hulled in a group silent and calm (neoclassic) muscular, and toned, and instructed with the belief that State First, the three brothers arms stretched out and fingers are just millimeters way from the blades that are held out by their father to ready for war, they are about to fight the Curiatii Family to decide war between the nations (Haggo, 2010).
The bearded father stands in the middle in a red cloak, legs flexed to keep his balance while holding the massively sharp swords, facing his three sons. He stands with authority and pride. Then our eyes naturally move to the next focal point, which being the next large group of huge swords that the Horatius Father holds in his expansive arms. Horatti address his sons independently stressing their facial features and uniforms that each wore. But a threat to their country demands the suppression of individually to underline the son’s solidarity.
David gives them almost the same position and one brothers hand on the others waist (Kleiner, F. 2006). In the front to the left of the painting is a groups of women huddled together these women are dressed in silken garments seemly melting into tender expressions. Their despair is partly due to the fact that they may lose one or all their men in battle. One of the Horatti men was married to a Curiatii women sitting on the bench, a sister was engaged to the Curiatii man.
Then in the back in the dark a woman is sitting in the dark and tries to hide a child’s face from what would be happening with just one word. The woman behind in the corner with the young child is said to be the mother to the three men, and the grandmother to whom she holds a small child in a protective manner, suggesting fright of the present surroundings. Unlike Horatti who is willing to sacrifice his family in exchange for state (Haggo, 2010).
There was scarcely a young painter of the following generation who was not influenced by David’s style, a style which had within it such diverse aspects as classicism, realism, and romanticism, and humanism among his foremost pupils, each of whom developed various different facets of his style, was Antoine Jean, Baron Gros, Pierre Narcisse Guerin, Francois Gerard, Girodet de Roucy-Trioson, and perhaps most important, Jean-Auguste-Dominique. In portraiture, the carefully molded and polished surfaces of works by Gerard, Gros, and Girodet-all students of David reflect the legacy of their master.
In his 1823 portrait of Madame Reizet, Girodet, whose portraits were in great demand, convincingly renders the varying textures of fur, velvet, lace, and flesh, creating a smooth surface with no visible brushwork. Yet another Davidian, Ingres, who was briefly in David’s studio in the late 1790’s, would transform his master’s neoclassical portrait model in the nineteenth century. While the precise draftsmanship of his portrait drawings attests to his training under David, the stylized contours and anatomical distortions characteristic of his painted portraits subvert David’s Model.
In his pair of portraits of the LeBlanc’s, Ingres flattens forms and elongates limbs; such stylized abstractions counter the almost hyperrealism of such fabrics as the cashmere shawl and tulle sleeves. He creates a similar dialogue in his portrait of the princess de Broglie of 1853 the virtuoso rendering of the multiple folds of her silk skirt, the tufted damask chair, and the marabou feathers of her hair ornament counters the mannered elongation of her arms, her seemly boneless fingers, and her idealized face (Galitz, 2004).
By the 1820’s the new romantic style, with its free handling of paint and expanded repertoire of subjects, offered an alternative to Davidian neoclassicism. David himself has been exiled to Belgium in 1816, where he died in 1825, and his studio was run by his loyal pupil Gros until his own death in 1835. In pursing the stylistic alternative that Romanticism offered, French, artist looked beyond their borders, emulating British prototypes, particularly in landscape and portraiture. In addition, the boundaries between Neoclassicism and Romanticism blurred, as evidence in the works of many of David pupils.
By 1840, then, the emergence of an artist such as Theodore Chasse Riau, whose hybrid style fuses Davidian classicism-which he learned in Ingres’ studio-with the Romantic painterliness and exotic subjects of Eugene Delacroix, captures the contradictory stylistic impulses of his generation (Galitz, 2004). With Bonaparte’s defeat at waterloo and the subsequent restorations of the Bourbons, aid tried to retreat into quiet seclusion, but his earlier politician affiliation and more particularly, his actions during the heat of the Revolution were not calculated to warm his relations with the new rulers.
He was declared persona non grata and fled. After short time he settled in Brussels, where he continued to paint until his death on Dec. 29, 1825. His family’s urgent request that his ashes returned to France was denied. To the drawings, fans of all things shinny will enjoy the display of regalia, swords, and scepters used in the actual ceremony. Most of these the heavily symbolic objects were supposed to have belonged to the emperor Charlemagne himself. This was another politically expedient, if not entirely accurate link to the past.
The whole event with its carefully elaborated references to both past and to the future-took five hours and demanded several costume changes by the Emperor. The white satin tunic that Napoleon wore while the pope anointed his head and hands in oil (the part of the ceremony to which Le Sacre actually refers) is here, but the Imperial robes and gold Laurel wreath depicted in the painting were intentionally destroyed in1819. Only one leaf from the original crown remains, encased like a saint’s relic.
In 1819, the cult of personality that Napoleon had masterfully created was too dangerous for his Bourbon successors to have his holy relics lying around. But 200 years later, we can marvel as its creation from safer – and enormously edifying distance (Anonymous, 2011). As we come to the end of our journey looking into some of the works of Jacques-Louis David, we find that he painted, and sketched over hundreds canvas. The two masterpieces that that are here in these few pages were those painted under royal patronage and for his country.
Even though it would be two years before the revolution, his painting Oath of the Horatti became semiofficial voice of the French Revolution because the painting shows country before family. The voices of France say Napoleon “He is a symbol of France and the origin of our law”. His reign did not last, but not without many men who lost their lives. David, as a craftsman of his trade he used different devices and techniques to accomplish his works. David went on to be a phoenix-like recovery and become Napoleons image maker.
David painted both painting with state before family, he became something even with the mistakes he made in 1794, and Jacques-Louis David barely escapes death, due to his connections in the revolutionary war. He stood trial and went to prison and almost lost his mind. After his release he had to work hard to reconstitute his career. That is exactly what he did, and he will be forever History for his fine works of Art.

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