The leader of the Neoclassical art revival, in both his art and his life, Jacques-Louis David displayed a tempestuous nature, inherited from his father, who was killed in a duel in 1757. he trained under Vien and his early paintings feature the same uncomfortable blend of Rococo sweetness and antique trappings as those of his master.
After winning the Prix de Rome, Jacques-Louis David spent an extended study period in Italy from 1775-80, where his art acquired a new dignity and grandeur. With their fiery patriotism and stern morality, Jacques-Louis David's paintings of the 1780s captured the rebellious mood of the times. Indeed, his greatest picture, The Oath of the Horatii, painted in Rome, has often been seen as a visual call to arms and come to represent the birth of Neoclassicism. Here, David illustrated an episode from ancient history, but it is interwoven with contemporary feelings and ideas, such as unanimity of intention, political determination, and the contrasting attitudes of warriors and wives.
He combined many aspects of Neoclassical art, including an admiration for antiquity, the desire to communicate political and moral messages, a meticulous rendering of the formal aspects of his work and, in later years, the celebration of Napoleon. The many portraits of Napoleon played a role in the propaganda and strategy of aggrandizement, which reached its height with the equestrian portrait by David of Napoleon crossing the Alps, of which there are five versions.
During the French Revolution, Jacques-Louis David was swept up in politics, joining the National Convention, where he became associated with Robespierre and Marat. After their fall, he was imprisoned and was saved from the guillotine by his royalist wife. This experience did nothing to quell the artist's spirit, yet, he became involved with Napoleon. After the latter's defeat, David fled to Brussels where he remained in exile for the rest of his days.
Well received by the intellectuals and the courts, Neoclassicism spread throughout Europe. In the field of painting, Jacques-Louis David became the model for at least two generations of European artists. David was also a very fine portraitist, as can be seen from his painting of a Portrait Of A Young Woman In A Turban.
Following World War II, Jacques-Louis David was regarded as a symbol of French national pride and identity, as well as a vital force in the development of European and French art in the modern era.
Art Movement History: Neoclassicism / Neoclassical.
Artists Influencing Louis David: Francois Boucher, Joseph-Marie Vien, Anton Mengs.
He Traveled To Belgium, Netherlands, Italy.
Painters Jacques David Influenced: Francois Hubert Drouais, Antoine-Jean Gros, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.