The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

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The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:37 pm

After the French Revolution, the new regime borrowed its constitutional terminology (Consuls, Senate etc)- and, indeed, its very name- from classical Rome. Under the Napoleonic Empire which followed, Napoleon emulated the Caesars by distributing eagles to his regiments (or legions). The temper of the times, then, was neoclassical and this fellow was France's leading neoclassical painter:


Jacques-Louis David self portrait, 1794.

Wiki:

Jacques-Louis David (30 August 1748 – 29 December 1825) was a highly influential French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era. In the 1780s his cerebral brand of history painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity toward a classical austerity and severity, heightened feeling chiming with the moral climate of the final years of the ancien régime.

David later became an active supporter of the French Revolution and friend of Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794), and was effectively a dictator of the arts under the French Republic. Imprisoned after Robespierre's fall from power, he aligned himself with yet another political regime upon his release, that of Napoleon I. It was at this time that he developed his 'Empire style', notable for its use of warm Venetian colours.

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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:46 pm

Wiki:

He went to Italy with Vien in 1775, as Vien had been appointed director of the French Academy at Rome. While in Italy, David observed the Italian masterpieces and the ruins of ancient Rome. David filled twelve sketchbooks with material that he would derive from for the rest of his life. He met the influential early neoclassical painter Raphael Mengs (1728–1779), and through Mengs was introduced to the pathbreaking theories of art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768). While in Rome, he studied great masters, and came to favor above all others Raphael. In 1779, David was able to see the ruins of Pompeii, and was filled with wonder. After this, he sought to revolutionize the art world with the "eternal" concepts of classicism....


Oath of the Horatii, 1784.

Wiki:

In Rome, David painted his famous Oath of the Horatii, 1784. In this piece, the artist references Enlightenment values while alluding to Rousseau’s social contract. The republican ideal of the general will becomes the focus of the painting with all three sons positioned in compliance with the father. The Oath between the characters can be read as an act of unification of men to the binding of the state. The issue of gender roles also becomes apparent in this piece, as the women in Horatii greatly contrast the group of brothers. David depicts the father with his back to the women, shutting them out of the oath making ritual; they also appear to be smaller in scale than the male figures. The masculine virility and discipline displayed by the men’s rigid and confident stances is also severely contrasted to the slouching, swooning female softness created in the other half of the composition. Here we see the clear division of male-female attributes which confined the sexes to specific roles, under Rousseau’s popular doctrines.



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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:51 pm


The Lictors bring to Brutus the Bodies of his Sons, 1789.

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For his next painting, David created The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons. The work had tremendous appeal for the time. Before the opening of the Salon, the French Revolution had begun. The National Assembly had been established, and the Bastille had fallen. The royal court did not want propaganda agitating the people, so all paintings had to be checked before being hung... When the newspapers reported that the government had not allowed the showing of The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, the people were outraged, and the royals were forced to give in. The painting was hung in the exhibition, protected by art students. The painting depicts Lucius Junius Brutus, the Roman leader, grieving for his sons. Brutus's sons had attempted to overthrow the government and restore the monarchy, so the father ordered their death to maintain the republic. Thus, Brutus was the heroic defender of the republic, at the cost of his own family. On the right, the Mother holds her two daughters, and the grandmother is seen on the far right, in anguish. Brutus sits on the left, alone, brooding, seemingly dismissing the dead bodies of his sons. Knowing what he did was best for his country, but the tense posture of his feet and toes reveals his inner turmoil. The whole painting was a Republican symbol, and obviously had immense meaning during these times in France.


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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:02 pm

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Wiki:

In the beginning, David was a supporter of the Revolution, a friend of Robespierre and a member of the Jacobin Club. While others were leaving the country for new and greater opportunities, David stayed to help destroy the old order; he was a regicide who voted in the National Convention for the Execution of Louis XVI. It is uncertain why he did this, as there were many more opportunities for him under the King than the new order; some people suggest David's love for the classical made him embrace everything about that period, including a republican government.


Sketch by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath. David later became a deputy in the National Convention in 1792.

Wiki:

In 1789, Jacques-Louis David attempted to leave his artistic mark on the historical beginnings of the French Revolution with his painting of The Oath of the Tennis Court. David undertook this task not out of personal political conviction but rather because he was commissioned to do so. The painting was meant to commemorate the event of the same name but was never completed. A meeting of the Estates General was convened in May to address reforms of the monarchy. Dissent arose over whether the numerous members of the Third Estate would be counted by head or – following tradition – as one body. On June 17 the members of the Third Estate renamed themselves the National Assembly. The new assembly decided that each individual would be counted by head and the members alone would levy taxes. Shortly thereafter, on June 20, the National Assembly attempted to meet but the chamber doors were locked and guarded by soldiers of the monarchy. Members of the new National Assembly convened at a nearby tennis court and vowed they would not be disbanded until they had created a constitution. In 1789 this event was seen as a symbol of the national unity against the ancien regime. David was enlisted by the Society of Friends of the Constitution, the body that would eventually form the Jacobins, to enshrine this symbolic event.

This instance is notable in more ways than one because it eventually led David to finally become involved in politics as he joined the Jacobins. The picture was meant to be massive in scale; the figures in the foreground were meant to be life-sized portraits of the counterparts, including Jean-Sylvain Bailly, the President of the Constituent Assembly. Seeking additional funding, David turned to the Society of Friends of the Constitution. The funding for the project was to come from over three thousand subscribers hoping to receive a print of the image. However, when the funding was insufficient, the state ended up financing the project.

David set out in 1790, to transform the contemporary event into a major historical picture, which would appear at the Salon of 1791 as a large pen and ink drawing. As in the Oath of the Horatii, David represents the unity of men in the service of a patriotic ideal. In what was essentially an act of intellect and reason, David creates an air of drama in this work. The very power of the people appears to be “blowing” through the scene with the stormy weather, in a sense alluding to the storm that would be the revolution.

Symbolism in this work of art closely represents the revolutionary events taking place at the time. The figure in the middle is raising his right arm making the oath that they will never disband until they have reached their goal of creating a “constitution of the realm fixed upon solid foundations.” The importance of this symbol is highlighted by the fact that the crowd’s arms are angled to his hand forming a triangular shape. Additionally, the open space in the top half contrasted to the commotion in the lower half serves to emphasize the magnitude of the Tennis Court Oath.

In his attempt to depict political events of the Revolution in “real time,” David was venturing down a new and untrodden path in the art world. However, Thomas Crow argues that this path “proved to be less a way forward than a cul-de-sac for history painting.” Essentially, the history of the demise of David’s The Tennis Court Oath illustrates the difficulty of creating works of art that portray current and controversial political occurrences. Political circumstances in France proved too volatile to allow the completion of the painting. The unity that was to be symbolized in The Tennis Court Oath no longer existed in radicalized 1792. The National Assembly had split between conservatives and radical Jacobins, both vying for political power. By 1792 there was no longer consensus that all the revolutionaries at the tennis court were “heroes.” A sizeable number of the heroes of 1789 had become the villains of 1792. In this unstable political climate David’s work remained unfinished. With only a few nude figures sketched onto the massive canvas, David abandoned The Oath of the Tennis Court. To have completed it would have been politically unsound. After this incident, when David attempted to make a political statement in his paintings, he returned to the less politically charged use of metaphor to convey his message.


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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:07 pm



Sketch by David of Marie Antoinette on her was to the Guillotine, 16 October, 1793.


Wiki:

In June 1791, the King made an ill-fated attempt to flee the country (flight to Varennes), but was apprehended short of his goal on the Austrian Belgian border and was forced to return under guard to Paris. Louis XVI had made secret requests to Emperor Joseph II of Austria, Marie-Antoinette's brother, to restore him to his throne. This was granted and Austria threatened France if the royal couple were hurt. In reaction, the people arrested the King. This led to an Invasion after the trials and execution of Louis and Marie-Antoinette. The Bourbon monarchy was destroyed by the French people in 1792—it would be restored after Napoleon, then destroyed again with the Restoration of the House of Bonaparte. When the new National Convention held its first meeting, David was sitting with his friends Jean-Paul Marat and Robespierre. In the Convention, David soon earned a nickname "ferocious terrorist". Soon, Robespierre’s agents discovered a secret vault of the king’s proving he was trying to overthrow the government, and demanded his execution. The National Convention held the trial of Louis XVI and David voted for the death of the King, which caused his wife, a royalist, to divorce him.


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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:12 pm


Death of Marat, 1793- David.

Wiki:

On 13 July 1793, David's friend Marat was assassinated by Charlotte Corday with a knife she had hidden in her clothing. She gained entrance to Marat's house on the pretense of presenting him a list of people who should be executed as enemies of France. Marat thanked her and said that they would be guillotined next week upon which Corday immediately fatally stabbed him. She was guillotined shortly thereafter. Corday was of an opposing political party, whose name can be seen in the note Marat holds in David's subsequent painting, The Death of Marat. Marat, a member of the National Assembly and a journalist, had a skin disease that caused him to itch horribly. The only relief he could get was in his bath over which he improvised a desk to write his list of suspect counter-revolutionaries who were to be quickly tried and, if convicted, guillotined. David once again organized a spectacular funeral, and Marat was buried in the Panthéon. Because Marat died in the bathtub, writing, David wanted to have his body submerged in the bathtub during the funeral procession. This did not play out because the body had begun to putrefy. Instead, Marat’s body was periodically sprinkled with water as the people came to see his corpse, complete with gaping wound. The Death of Marat, perhaps David's most famous painting, has been called the Pietà of the revolution. Upon presenting the painting to the convention, he said "Citizens, the people were again calling for their friend; their desolate voice was heard: David, take up your brushes.., avenge Marat... I heard the voice of the people. I obeyed." David had to work quickly, but the result was a simple and powerful image.

The Death of Marat, 1793, became the leading image of the Terror and immortalized both Marat, and David in the world of the revolution. This piece stands today as “a moving testimony to what can be achieved when an artist’s political convictions are directly manifested in his work". A political martyr was instantly created as David portrayed Marat with all the marks of the real murder, in a fashion which greatly resembles that of Christ or his disciples. The subject although realistically depicted remains lifeless in a rather supernatural composition. With the surrogate tombstone placed in front of him and the almost holy light cast upon the whole scene; alluding to an out of this world existence. “Atheists though they were, David and Marat, like so many other fervent social reformers of the modern world, seem to have created a new kind of religion.” At the very center of these beliefs, there stood the republic.


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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:18 pm


Napoleon Crossing the St Bernard Pass, 1801.

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After Napoleon's successful coup d'état in 1799, as First Consul he commissioned David to commemorate his daring crossing of the Alps. The crossing of the St. Bernard Pass had allowed the French to surprise the Austrian army and win victory at the Battle of Marengo on 14 June 1800. Although Napoleon had crossed the Alps on a mule, he requested that he be portrayed "calm upon a fiery steed". David complied with Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard. After the proclamation of the Empire in 1804, David became the official court painter of the regime.


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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:22 pm


The Coronation of Napoleon, 1806 by David.

Wiki:

One of the works David was commissioned for was The Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame. David was permitted to watch the event. He had plans of Notre Dame delivered and participants in the coronation came to his studio to pose individually, though never the Emperor (the only time David obtained a sitting from Napoleon had been in 1797). David did manage to get a private sitting with the Empress Josephine and Napoleon's sister, Caroline Murat, through the intervention of erstwhile art patron, Marshal Joachim Murat, the Emperor's brother-in-law. For his background, David had the choir of Notre Dame act as his fill-in characters. The Pope came to sit for the painting, and actually blessed David. Napoleon came to see the painter, stared at the canvas for an hour and said "David, I salute you". David had to redo several parts of the painting because of Napoleon's various whims, and for this painting, David received only 24,000 Francs.


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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:27 pm


Napoleon in his study, 1812 by David.

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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:35 pm

Wiki:

On the Bourbons returning to power, David figured in the list of proscribed former revolutionaries and Bonapartists — for having voted execution for the deposed King Louis XVI; and for participating in the death of Louis XVII. Mistreated and starved, the imprisoned Louis XVII was forced to confess to incest with his mother, Queen Marie-Antoinette, (untrue; separated early, son and mother were disallowed communication, nevertheless, the allegation helped earn her the guillotine). The new Bourbon King, Louis XVIII, however, granted amnesty to David and even offered him the position of court painter. David refused, preferring self-exile in Brussels.


Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces, 1824. David's last major work.

Wiki:

David created his last great work, Mars Being Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces, from 1822 to 1824. In December 1823, he wrote: "This is the last picture I want to paint, but I want to surpass myself in it. I will put the date of my seventy-five years on it and afterwards I will never again pick up my brush." The finished painting — evoking painted porcelain because of its limpid coloration — was exhibited first in Brussels, then in Paris, where his former students flocked to view it. The exhibition was profitable — 13,000 francs, after deducting operating costs, thus, more than 10,000 people visited and viewed the painting. In his later years, David remained in full command of his artistic faculties, even after a stroke in the spring of 1825 disfigured his face and slurred his speech...

When David was leaving a theater, a carriage struck him, and he later died, on 29 December 1825. At his death, some portraits were auctioned in Paris, they sold for little; the famous Death of Marat was exhibited in a secluded room, to avoid outraging public sensibilities. Disallowed return to France for burial, for having been a regicide of King Louis XVI, the body of the painter Jacques-Louis David was buried at Brussels Cemetery, while his heart was buried at Père Lachaise, Paris.


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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Sun Jul 17, 2011 3:26 am

Reveries of the Solitary Walker by Jean-Jacques Rousseau – review

by PD Smith

guardian.co.uk, Friday 15 July 2011 23.55 BST


Reveries of the Solitary Walker (Oxford World's Classics) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, translated by Russell Goulbourne

When Rousseau died in July 1778, the unfinished manuscript of Reveries was discovered along with the 27 playing cards on which Rousseau had jotted down his thoughts while walking. He had been working on the 10 "Walks" that comprise Reveries until three months before he died. "I am devoting my last days to studying myself," he wrote. The result is remarkable, the work of a man who felt himself rejected by society and who turned in on himself. His random walks spark brilliant "flights of thought" on life, nature and the falsity of society. Although not intended for publication, Reveries has been hugely influential, as Russell Goulbourne's excellent introduction to his new translation makes clear. The Reveries inspired Wordsworth's ambulatory poem The Prelude and Baudelaire considered naming a collection of poems about Paris The Solitary Walker. Rousseau's walks are not urban, but there are also clear parallels with the Parisian flâneurs and the dérive of the Situationists. A powerful meditation on the quest for self-understanding.

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Re: The French Revolution's artist-in-residence: Jacques-Louis David

Post  eddie on Fri Jul 22, 2011 9:20 pm

Pure by Andrew Miller – review

Andrew Miller drops us right into the contagion and contamination of Paris in the dying days of the ancien regime

Leo Robson The Observer, Sunday 17 July 2011


Andrew Miller proves that the historical novel is not a doomed enterprise. Photograph: Abbie Trayler-Smith

The historical novel, so that its period setting may be a source of illumination and enjoyment rather than confusion and tedium, is more or less bound to make a sop to the reader. Henry James, in his unfinished novel The Sense of the Past, chose as his main character a present-day historian who, when he crossed a certain threshold, was transported to the age of Byron; Dickens, portraying pre-revolutionary France in A Tale of Two Cities, approached the period in an antiquarian spirit ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"), and used English characters who would function as proxy-eyeballs for an English readership.


Pure by Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller, treating the same period in his accomplished new novel, gets by without such crutches. He drops us right into Paris in the last days of the ancien regime, a place of contagion and contamination where Miller's young hero, engineer Jean-Baptiste Barratte, has come to lose his illusions and find his fortune. Miller uses a varied French cast, none of whom is an avatar of, or spokesman for, the 21st century. When characters talk of the "future" or "modernity", they are looking forward only a few years, to the era of Danton, Robespierre, and Napoleon – though the reader is never prompted to cry: "Look ahead of you!"

Jean-Baptiste, usually identified as "the engineer", arrives in Paris from Normandy and is immediately given a mission. Louis XVI long ago ordered the closure of a church, Les Innocents, and its pestilential, overflowing cemetery. Now, one of the king's ministers tells the engineer, it is time for it to be made "sweet again": "Decent, habitable. Pure." The minister fails to realise that such an act will be received by many as a step towards a necessary purification of France, as carried out by her citizens. The engineer, a follower of Voltaire and Diderot, thinks of it as sweeping away "in fact, not in rhetoric, the poisonous influence of the past". But it soon emerges that those who have become accustomed to the stench of human dust are less than enthusiastic about the engineer's project.

Although Miller has resisted using English characters or a well-informed narrator, the engineer does represent an outsider type of a familiar, perhaps too familiar kind. As defined by Lionel Trilling, the Young Man from the Provinces "starts with a great demand upon life and a great wonder about its complexity and promise"; he is intelligent but not shrewd; he has learned "something about life from books, although not the truth"; he "stands outside life and seeks to enter". The engineer has all of these properties and undergoes the customary processes, as if on cue. And when his new friend Armand, the organist at Les Innocents, introduces him to Paris – to its inns, fromageries, and tailors – the reader is there with him, taking mental notes.

It is disappointing, given the vitality of the novel's setting and set-up, that Miller fails to achieve corresponding dynamism in the development of plot and character. The destruction of Les Innocents consumes the novel, from first line to last, but the consequences of the project are never made to matter to the reader as much as they matter to the engineer; the dark results are not dark enough. As a prose writer, Miller appears averse to taking risks, which means no pratfalls – but no glory either. The engineer's progress and his setbacks are narrated in a patient, tight-lipped present tense, and just as the novel rarely concerns itself with anything that doesn't impinge on the destruction of Les Innocents, so it rarely deviates from its obsessive regime of description and dialogue.

Henry James, having failed to complete The Sense of the Past, became convinced that the historical novel was a doomed enterprise; it could replicate facts but would fail to represent a consciousness "intensely-otherwise conditioned". Miller exposes the folly of James's distinction between facts and consciousness. He succeeds in representing the consciousness of his characters by scrupulously selecting which facts they will be familiar with and which they will find unsettling or strange. It is one of the historical novel's advantages over the topical or journalistic novel that the benchmark is plausibility rather than verifiable authenticity. Success in this effort requires a capacity for immersion and a degree of imagination, and whatever his shortcomings as a prose writer and a storyteller, Andrew Miller is endowed with both.

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