Art History:  Grade 4 Lesson 4

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  ART AS IT CHANGES - Art in Revolution and Empire



  1. Portrait of Louis XIV, 1701, Hyacinth Rigaud, French (1659-1743) oil on canvas, 109 7/8" x 74 3/4". The Louvre, Paris. Reproduction photograph.
    The portrait of Louis XIV of France is included in this lesson because he was the model of absolute monarchy for other countries. He believed that he was God's lieutenant which meant complete power at home and expansion abroad, and that the king could do no wrong.

    This dazzling portrait, that had been commissioned as a gift for the king of Spain, so delighted Louis himself that he changed his mind and kept it for his throne room at Versailles. it is easy to remember when looking at this that this was the ":Sun King", who slept in a room that formed the central axis of the colossal palace., and that all roads from the provinces converged at this same spot. But the vanity of the sixty-three year old monarch, his reverence for the "cult of the king's person", are subordinate here to the idea that the king is the living symbol of the whole vast, rich kingdom of France. He said "I am the State".

    The expanse of ermine, the myriad fleur-de-lis, the sword of Charlemagne, the "hand of justice" that had belonged to Charles V, and the crown and sceptre from the treasury of St. Denis, even the sweep of gold and crimson drapery and the wonderful assurance of the pose, all contribute to make this painting "a page from history, one of the most complete documents we possess on the Grand roi".

    Louis XIV died in 1715, having reigned for 72 years.

    Hyacinthe Rigaud fortunately turned early in his life from historical painting with which he had begun his career to state portraits, for which he was so peculiarly fitted that he has been called the born painter of kings. Four other rulers sat for him, as well as four generations of the French royalty.

    bulletThe French Revolution, History of


  2.  Volunteers leaving for the frontier,, Pierre-Etienne LeSuer, French ( - ) oil on board. Musee Camavalet, Paris. Collection de M Bidault del'Isle. Reproduction photograph.
     The American revolution with it's cry "All men are created equal", inspired the French revolution. Common people rose against their rulers. The people of France rallied to defend their infant republic against invading armies of Austria and Prussia, showing the same fervor with which they had swept their king and aristocrats from power. French patriots leaving to defend the Belgian frontier had "Liberty or Death" as a slogan.


  3.  Assassination of Marat, , Jacques Louis David, French (1748-1825) , Musee Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Reproduction photograph.
     When the Revolution came, David had no need to look to ancient Rome for his heroes, though he continued to portray them with classic dignity and restraint. Marat, one of the revolutionary leaders, was murdered on July 13, 1793, by a young girl from the provinces, Charlotte Corday, who believed he was an unscrupulous tyrant. She gained admission to his room (where he worked sitting in a bath of warm water to relieve a painful skin disorder) by pretending to bring news from Normandy, then stabbed him with a dinner knife.

    David, who knew and admired Marat, and had visited him a few days earlier, spares none of the realistic details - the knife, the bloodstained bathwater, the letter from Charlotte Corday. At the same time the scene has a static Roman gravitas, like a tomb monument, an effect enhanced by the inscription on the table in the foreground. This is David's greatest work, and certainly the strength and sincerity of it's political involvement are amongst the secrets of its tragic power. It seems to symbolize the ordeal of the 18th century itself, passing from ardour and idealism to violence and disillusion.

    Charlotte Corday was a member of the rival republican party who killed Marat in revenge for the attacks he had made on leaders of her party. the note seems to say, "It is enough that I am miserable in order to give you your happiness."

    bulletJean-Paul Marat French Revolutionary
    bulletBiography of Jacques Louis David


  4.  A-Bonaparte, 1798, Jacques Louis David, French (1748-1825) ,Incomplete oil on canvas
    What was originally designed to be a war of liberation turned into a war of conquest. In such a war, new and untried commanders rose from the ranks by sheer brilliance. Chief among them was a young Corsican, Napoleon Bonaparte. he became Brigadier General before the age of 25, and took command of the French Army in Italy. Three years later he overthrew the government in France by a military coup. In 1804 he crowned himself emperor following the example of historical Roman emperors. He defeated all the major powers of Europe until his failure in Russia in 1812. After a final defeat at Waterloo, he was exiled to the island of St Helena in the Southern Atlantic. He died there of cancer at age 51.


    Bonaparte (unfinished)
  5.  Le Sacre, 1806-1807, Jacques Louis David, French (1748-1825) ,Oil on canvas
    621 x 979 cm, Louvre, Paris -
  6. Details a. L'Empereur and b. L'Imperatrice Josephine
    Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on 2 Dec 1804

    David was the chief exponent of the neo-classical style in France, a political supporter of the French Revolution and painter of Napoleon. Such early works as the "Oath of the Horatii" are characteristic of this style - a severe, frontal composition, static gestures, emphatic definition of muscular structure of the figures, all combined with a subject drawn from Ancient Rome. David was politically active during the Revolution and, in fact, voted for the King's execution. His painting, "The Death of Marat", is his most brilliant work from this period. He became a fervent Bonapartist, heralding napoleon's success in many paintings including one of his coronation as Emperor. In 1815, after the return of the Bourbons, David fled France to live in Brussels and almost entirely ceased to paint.

    Napoleon commissioned the painting of four grand pictures to commemorate his assumption of the title "Emperor". David completed only two before the empire collapsed. one painting is named, The coronation, or Le Sacre. the other is the Distribution of the Eagles, 1810 (now in Versailles).

    The Coronation is a life-size portrait of all the dignitaries witnessing the event. It took place in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The ancient Gothic architecture was covered with imitation marble arches copying the style of the Roman Empire. Napoleon actually placed the crown on his own head, but in the painting he wanted to relate the moment when he put the crown on the brow of his Empress. The placement and stance of every person had to be approved by Napoleon even to the inclusion of his mother who had made a particular point of being away from Paris on that day.

    The painting is 20 by 30 feet and contains 150 life-sized portraits. It took several years for each person to sit at the church where David had set up his studio for his or her likeness. The US Ambassador is included. As a signature, David included himself sitting and sketching with his family, favorite pupils and his teacher, Vien.

    Napoleon used much symbolism to remind people of the Roman Empire and to break away from French aristocracy. The coronation robes are completely embroidered with golden bees, a symbol of all people working for the good of the hive, or state, to produce the honey of prosperity. Sheaves of wheat and horns of plenty symbolize abundance. Palm branches were a sign of victory and Napoleon's laurel wreath crown is the ancient symbol of literary immortality.


  7.  Executions of the Third of May, 1808, 1814-15, Francisco de Goya, Spanish (1746-1828) 8' 9" x 13' 4", oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Reproduction Print
    Goya did not report on the glories of war. Instead he painted its horrors and disasters. The Executions of the Third of May tells a story of an actual event which occurred in Madrid in 1808.

    Napoleon's armies had invaded Spain and were about to carry away the son of the Spanish king. protecting their monarchy, the people of Madrid attacked the invading army. The next day, civilians, guilty or not were marched before the firing squad. Goya paints much feeling into this scene. Which side of the battle did he have sympathy for? Notice the lighting and its source. The light shines on the man about to be executed. If he could talk, what do you think he would say? The soldiers are like a machine - each person alike, blindly carrying out their duty.

    Although he was born before 1750, Goya's art belongs to the 19th century because o his strong influence even into this century. Goya portrayed the court life of Spain as well as the brutal invasion by Napoleon. The purpose of his work is biting social commentary or emotional expression.

    Goya began his art studies in the large town local to his birthplace but he fled to Madrid before he was 20. There he was taken on as an assistant to Tiepolo, who was decorating the royal palace. Perhaps the art of making large cartoons for tapestries later influenced the strong simple lines of his mature work. A visit to Italy exposed him to the expressive lighting and unusual perspective of the late Baroque period. on his return to Spain he became a court painter. The imaginative and critical side of his art is seen in his other works. As an outstanding etcher and lithographer, he did a series entitled "Miseries of War". Such works helped to dispel the romantic concept of war.

    bulletGoya - Biography


  8. Le Gamin Anglais (English Boy), 1821, Jean Louis Andre Gericault, French (1791-1824) 18" x 13", oil on canvas, Norton Simon Collection, Pasadena, CA  Reproduction Print


    Gericault was a romantic who loved to travel and always stood up for the less fortunate. The emotional life he led is reflected in his work. He exhibited his work in the Salon, but caused a revolution in the art world with his large canvas (16' x 23') "The Raft of the Medusa". The picture proclaimed the freedom of the artist and made a statement about a contemporary event. The painting was not accepted in France, so he took it on tour to London and charged admission to see it. The English boy with his large innocent eyes is proclaiming the ideals of the revolution with his Phrygian hat.




    Gericault - Biography


  9. Liberty Leading the People, 1830, Eugene Delacroix, French (1798-1863) 8' 6" x 10' 10", oil on canvas, Louvre Museum, Paris. Reproduction Print
    Using bright colors, sharp diagonal movements, constantly moving forms and melodramatic lighting, artists such as Delacroix hoped to express their individual personality on a high emotional plane. Delacroix, a highly cultured and sensitive person hoped to express his strong sympathies for the poor and oppressed. The Napoleonic era was followed by political reaction, but artists like Delacroix continued to speak for individual freedom.

    The Middle Class was now setting the fashion and although they had once been the leaders of the Revolution, they were now conservative, preferring the classicism and clear lines of David. New individualistic painting was associated with political radicalism. Delacroix exhibited his work in the Salon with Constable's landscapes. His work brought much criticism. When the conservatives came to power, Delacroix painted subjects from literary and near Eastern sources instead of touchy contemporary subjects.

    After the revolution and Napoleon, France was once again in turmoil. Louis-Phillipe, the "Citizen King" battled for power over a more reactionary Bourbon king who the aristocracy supported. this was the Revolution of July 1830. Delacroix paints a dramatic painting with much emotion. Notice the lighting which is like a stage. The colors of the flag are repeated and symbolize patriotism with truth and purity of the white, the blue of freedom and red for the blood of those who have fallen for the ideal of liberty. Where else have you seen this woman - Liberty?

    Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix was a French historical painter and leader of the Romantic School. He was influenced by his study of the masters in the Louvre, Paris, particularly by Rubens. His first exhibited work (1802) Dante's Bark (Louvre), aroused the anger of his teacher, Guerin, and created a sensation by its radical departure from the dominant classicism of French painting, and until his death, Delacroix was the target of academics and critics. Contact with Constable's painting in England, the literature of Scott and Byron, and visits to North Africa and Spain left profound imprints on his painting. Delacroix's murals, excelled only by those of Rubens and Veronese in grandeur of color and composition, were executed between 1832 and 1855. He produced over 800 oil paintings, 15,000 watercolors and crayons, and many etchings.

    bulletThis picture
    bulletDelacroix - Biography


The 18th century , which began with the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV, ended with the cry of "Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood" of the French Revolution.  A common man, Napoleon Bonaparte became the ruler of an Empire. The revolution brought the drastically new idea that government be based on voluntary agreement among citizens. Surrounding monarchies felt threatened by this revolution, but the French army under Napoleon not only defended the borders but soon built up an Empire.

In this lesson we study the artist as Social Critic. They created a version of an actual event because they had something to say about their time. Art changed from frilly artifices of the Kings and nobility, through the classic Spartan simplicity of the revolution, to the individual, emotional statement of the romantic.

It may be helpful to first define "Revolution", and "Empire and to explain what a symbol is. Ancient Rome became the symbol for revolutionary protest because the desired form of government was a republic rather than a monarchy. As in Rome, the French Revolutionaries were tolerant of paganism and believed in heroism and self sacrifice. Roman statues and architecture were admired and copied. The Phrygian cap, worn by liberated slaves of Rome, became a symbol of the revolution. The farces, a bundle of sticks with protruding ax ties together with a common bond was borrowed from Rome as a symbol of power.


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