French painter, one of the central figures of Neoclassicism. He had his first training with Francois Boucher, a distant relative.Jacques-Louis David went to Italy in 1776, where he was able to indulge his bent for the antique and came into contact with the initiators of the new Classical revival. In 1780 he returned to Paris, and in the 1780s his position was firmly established as the embodiment of the social and moral reaction from the frivolity of the Rococo.
Jacques-Louis David's uncompromising subordination of color to drawing and his economy of statement were in keeping with the new severity of taste. His themes gave expression to the new cult of the civic virtues of stoical self-sacrifice, devotion to duty, honesty, and austerity. Seldom have oil paintings so completely typified the sentiment of an age as Jacques-Louis David's The Oath of the Horatii (Louvre, Paris, 1784), Brutus and his Dead Sons (Louvre, 1789), and The Death of Socrates (Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1787).
Jacques-Louis David was in active sympathy with the Revolution, becoming a Deputy and voting for the execution of Louis XVI. His position was unchallenged as the painter of the Revolution.
Jacques-Louis David became an ardent supporter of Napoleon. Between 1802 and 1807 he painted a series of oil paintings glorifying the exploits of the Emperor, among them the enormous Coronation of Napoleon (Louvre, 1805-07). These art works show a change both in technique and in feeling from the earlier Republican works. The cold colors and severe compositions of the heroic paintings gave place to a new feeling for pageantry.
With the fall of Napoleon, Jacques-Louis David went into exile in Brussels, and his work weakened as the possibility of exerting a moral and social influence receded.
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