Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rejection of Rococo

Detail from The Coronation of Napoleon (1806) by Jacques-Louis David

Today marks the birth date of Jacques-Louis David, born in 1748. David came into prominence during the Revolutionary era of France and remained a vital artistic influence throughout the Napoleonic era. He painted in a Neoclassical style, with a sculptural severity that rejected the flowing elegance and opulence of the Rococo style of his predecessors.

I'm not a fan of his works. The style feels stiff and excessively dramatic with propagandist overtones. But they are powerful paintings with excellent technique and engaging narrative composition. Moreover, these works absolutely must be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Their sculptural design may look clunky in a picture book or webpage, but this illusionist use of perspective and modelling makes for a commanding and monumental pictorial space when viewed on site.

Self Portrait of the Artist (1794) by Jacques-Louis David

So, although I'm not an enthusiast, I certainly admire David's artworks.

Moreover, I really enjoy the historical content of his works, both the imagining in regards to antiquity and the depictions of his "heroic" contemporaries, such as Napoleon or Marat.

Detail of The Death of Socrates (1787) by Jacques-Louis David

Here's a nice vid showcasing his works:


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