Jacques-Louis David: short biography, paintings and video


😉 Greetings to regular and new readers! In this short article “Jacques-Louis David: A Brief Biography, Pictures” – about the life of a French painter, a major representative of French neoclassicism in painting. Years of life 1748-1825.

Jacques-Louis David: biography

Jacques-Louis David was born (August 30, 1748) into the family of a wealthy Parisian bourgeois. After the death of her husband and in connection with the departure to another city, the mother left David to be raised by his brother, who was an architect. This family was related to the painter François Boucher, who painted the portraits of the Marquise de Pompadour.

As a child, David developed a penchant for drawing. At the Paris Academy of Saint Luke, he attends drawing lessons. Then, on the advice of Boucher, he began studying with one of the leading masters of historical painting of early neoclassicism, Joseph Vien.

  • 1766 – entered the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture;
  • 1775-1780 – training at the French Academy in Rome;
  • 1783 – Member of the Academy of Painting;
  • 1792 – Member of the National Convention. Voted for the death of King Louis XVI;
  • 1794 – imprisoned for revolutionary views after the Thermidorian coup;
  • 1797 – becomes an adherent of Napoleon Bonaparte, and after his coming to power – the court “first artist”;
  • 1816 —After Bonaparte’s defeat, Jacques-Louis David left for Brussels, where he died in 1825.

Jacques-Louis David: paintings

At one time a royalist who later supported the French Revolution, David has always been a champion of sublime beauty in art. He created, probably, the best and most famous paintings dedicated to the patron saint Napoleon.

With him to the end, he tied his fate. After the fall of the emperor, he retired into self-imposed exile in Brussels.

Jacques-Louis David: short biography, paintings and video

Jacques-Louis David. Unfinished portrait of Napoleon. 1798 g.

David painted Napoleon when he was still a general in 1797. Despite the fact that the picture is not finished – the costume of the person portrayed in the sketch (Paris, Louvre). It amazingly shows the willpower and determination of the Corsican.

“Napoleon at the Saint Bernard Pass”

One of the artist’s most famous paintings is a portrait of Napoleon, general of the victorious Italian campaign.

This 1801 masterpiece (National Museum, Malmaison) is filled with a baroque energy impulse, with which the artist presented Bonaparte on horseback. The whirlwind ruffles the argamak’s mane and the rider’s cloak – against the background of gloomy clouds driven by the same whirlwind.

Jacques-Louis David: short biography, paintings and video

“Napoleon at the Saint Bernard Pass. 1801 “

It seems that the very forces of nature are drawing Bonaparte to his destiny. Crossing the Alps will mark the beginning of the triumphant conquest of Italy. In this, the Corsican followed the greatest heroes of the past. In the foreground of the picture are the names carved on the rocks: “Hannibal”, “Charlemagne”.

Despite the fact that the “truth” of the picture differs from the historical truth – Napoleon overcame the pass on the back of a mule on a sunny day – this is one of the most truthful portraits of the commander.

“Presentation of banners by the emperor”

Jacques-Louis David and his students also created two huge paintings illustrating the beginning of the era of the empire. One of them, 1810, is called “Presentation of the Banners by the Emperor” (Versailles, National Museum of the Palaces of Versailles and Trianon).

This is one of the few artworks created for Napoleon, about which it is known that the customer himself oversaw the execution of the order.

Jacques-Louis David: short biography, paintings and video

At the direction of Bonaparte, David had to remove the silhouette of the Roman goddess of victory, Victoria over the figures holding the banners.

“The crowning of the Emperor Napoleon”

This allegory contradicted the meaning and historical truth that the emperor expected from this type of work. In another case, the artist arbitrarily changed the original design of the composition of another monumental canvas – “Coronation”, written in 1805-1808 (Paris, Louvre).

Although the overall composition of the work is based on a similar principle – the emperor is depicted on a dais – there is a different mood here. The spontaneous soldier’s dynamism gave way to the magnificent solemnity of the coronation act.

Jacques-Louis David: short biography, paintings and video

Crowning of Emperor Napoleon and Empress Josephine in Notre Dame Cathedral on December 2, 1804 Louvre, Paris

Sketches for David’s future painting suggest that the artist sought to show a moment of historical truth. Bonaparte, having taken the imperial crown from the hands of the Pope, crowned himself with it, clearly indicating the only source of his imperial power.

Apparently, this gesture seemed too arrogant. Therefore, in the genre of propaganda work of art, the painting depicts an emperor crowning his wife with a crown.

Nevertheless, the work has certainly preserved the symbol of Napoleon’s autocracy, readable for the then viewer. The scene of the imperial consecration of Josephine repeats the compositional motif of the coronation of Mary by Jesus, which was widespread in the French art of the late Middle Ages.


In this informative video, paintings and more information on “Jacques-Louis David: A Brief Biography”

Famous people Jacques-Louis David Doc movie

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