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Jacques- Louis was born in Paris in 1948. He was French painter who preferred a neo classical style in his painting work. His mother was related to the painter Francois Boucher and this may probably explain his connection to art. Louis guardians had insisted to train him as an architect but he preferred to study painting. Boucher assisted him to be placed in the art studio of Joseph-Marie Vien in 1703. Joseph-Marie was the promoter of the neoclassical reaction against rococo. As a student, David's artwork was somehow rococo but he eventually adjusted to neo classicism. David took part in various competitions such as Battle between Mars and Minerva, Diana and Apollo Killing the Children of Niobe, and Death of Seneca. Unfortunately he lost in all these competitions but he won in his fourth attempt known as Antiochus and Stratonice in 1774. It was this win that gave an indication of him turning to classicism.
David represented neoclassicism art as was portrayed in the portrait of Madame David. Neoclassicism was a movement in the European art that wanted to rejuvenate the classical forms of art as experienced in Rome and Greece. Neoclassical paintings displayed no emotions as they looked very serious in facial expressions. The neoclassical artists like David, used colors that were somber to highlight their paintings which in most cases represented stories of self denial and sacrifice. The portrait of Madame David is one of the many artworks that David has done. It is quite a frank portrait that portrays the features of David's wife. According to David his wife provided him with the happiness that he required in life and hence the desire to honor her in the Madame David Portrait. The portrait also tries to demonstrate her wife's intelligence and directness. The approach that David used to while drawing Madame David is quite realistic and has uncompromising honesty as has been shown in many of the David's work.
The art of realism as used by David depicts and illustrates objects as they appear. It was a development of Neoclassicism and Romanticism. In Neoclassical art, artists used classical styles to show bravery, sacrifice and patriotism of the subjects. In the Romanticism art artists portray emotions and creativity in their paintings and therefore did not represent the reality. Most of the David's paintings represented objective reality of its subjects and this includes the portrait of Madame David. In realism approach, an artist does not use imagination in the artwork as that would spoil the originality of the subjects. The artists using this approach make no changes to their art work even if the intention would be to make the artwork interesting. In the realistic approach the theme is "to paint as you see it."
One of the major works that David has done to portray his shift to classicism is the portrait of Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812. Careful scrutinies of the finer details that have been put in this portrait reveal David's ability to transform the individuals that were a subject of his art work into recognized political leaders. In this portrait Napoleon is put in the middle of a vertical canvas where he is dressed like a colonel of the Foot Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard. The way Napoleon poses in this portrait is quite different from his formal dressing. His cuffs are not buttoned while his leggings appear creased; and his hair is not very well done. While explaining to Alexander Douglas, who was the patron of his painting, David said that he wanted to portray that Napoleon had spent most of the time in his study while composing the Napoleonic Code. This impression is emphasized by the candles that seem to be almost extinguished, some pen and papers on the desk and a clock that was showing that it must have been around four in the morning. A sword is placed next to the chair as an indication of the background that Napoleon had in the military and the depiction of the word 'Code' was an illustration of his achievements.
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In the portrait of Madame Recamier that was painted in 1800 was an exception of David's realist approach to portraits. In this portrait David seems to have used than the one used in Madame David's portrait. Juliette Recamier who is illustrated in the portrait was a wife of Parisian banker. The portrait shows her dressed in the antique style and Pompeian furniture is also illustrated in the portrait. This portrait was however not finished for unclear reasons but it shows how David used translucent colors for the background. Madame Recamier is dressed in a white sleeveless dress and she has no shoes.
The portrait represents an image of an elegant woman who was one of the most admired in her lifetime. Madame Recamier wanted to commission of the David's pupils to finish this portrait but David declined and instead requested to be allowed to keep the portrait in its unfinished state. The work to say the leas was innovative due to its horizontal format that was quite uncommon with portraits. Her antique pose and the light dress all represent neoclassic ideals of the painter. The harmony was by emphasized by the white dress which goes very well with the furniture though the unfinished state of the portrait gave it a mysterious appearance.
In the Portrait of Jacobus Blauw, David portrayed his Neoclassicism and realist approach similar to the one he used in the portrait of Madame David. The portrait was painted in 1795 and depicted Blauw who was on of the founders of the Batavian Republic in Netherlands. The portrait in a way illustrates the success of the mission. The image of Blauw conveys a massage of sincerity and direct honesty. The benefits of the hard labor in the public service are illustrated by the seriousness with which Blauw holds a quill in his right hand. The subtle combination of colors with a red chair and a pink cloth for a table cover brings out the impression of a realistic approach in David's art.
In the Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine, David illustrated Josephine Bonaparte as during the coronation by her husband Napoleon Bonaparte. He had developed interest in Napoleon because of his classical style including how he dressed. The close association between the two also led to the commissioning of The Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame. Before David painted this painted, he was invited by Napoleon to watch the performance of the choir of Notre Dame. The Pope witnessed as he did the painting and napoleon too congratulated him for the great work. The new style of Romanticism emerged during the year 1820 and sought to offer an alternative to Davidian Neoclassicism.
David painted the Portrait of comte de Turenne at Williamson in 1819 just six years to his death. The relationship between David and Turenne was however not very clear as it raised questions why this portrait took so long to be published. A closer look at the portrait reveals that David had used a realistic approach with some touch of Romanticism.
The portrait of Madame Seriziat which was one of David's paintings was romanticized as it portrayed a woman who was holding a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a small girl on the other hand. This painting did not present the reality of the subject as it appears David had added a bit of creativity and imagination into it. It is however not very far away from neoclassicism as it tends to portray very little emotions which were a characteristic of David's art works. When David died in 1825 his pupils such as Gross, continued with Romanticism art although the difference between this form of painting and neoclassicism continued to be narrow. This has become evident with the art works of most of the pupils who were trained by David.