Jacques-Louis David, self-portrait, painted while imprisoned in the reaction against the excesses of Robespierre.
Jacques-Louis David (le 30 août 1748 – le 29 décembre 1825
) was a highly influential French painter in the Neoclassical style. In the 1780s his cerebral brand of History painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity favored by Mme de Pompadour
, Mistress of Louis XV, towards a classical austerity and severity, chiming with the moral climate of the final years of the ancien régime
. His work represents a turning point in the history of painting. He was an incomparable technical master.
David was nothing if not politically adroit. He managed shifts from being in favor of the court of Louis XVI
, to the favor of the Revolutionaries, including the most dangerous of them, Robespierre, to becoming Napoléon's favorite painter.
In his shift away from the monarchy, David became an active supporter of the French Revolution and friend of Maximilien de Robespierre, and David 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 Napoléon I
. It was at this time that he developed his 'Empire style', notable for its use of warm Venetian colours. David had a huge number of pupils, making him the strongest influence in French art of the 19th century, especially academic Salon painting.
With the re-establishment of the monarchy after the fall of Napoléon I, David was unable to shift politics yet again back to the favor of the Bourbon court. The Bourbons remembered that David had voted for the execution of Louis XVI and forced him to leave France. After his death in Belgium on le 29 décembre 1825
, his body was not allowed back into France and was buried in Brussels, but his heart is buried at cimitière Père Lachaise
Paintings by David
Paris and Helen (1788)
Death of Marat (1794)
Napoléon Crossing the Alps (1801)
Coronation of Napoléon (1806)
Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile
Jacques-Louis David's 'Marat'
Jacques-Louis David and Neoclassicism