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Jacques Louis David: A Brief Biography

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Jacques Louis David supported the French Revolution from start to finish. He joined the Mountain, the Jacobin club, supported the Constitutional Monarchy and the Reign of Terror, and finally became the court painter to General Napoleon Bonaparte. David was extremely dedicated to having a Republican government, and while many people were fleeing the country for greater opportunities all over the world, David stayed behind to help abolish the old power.
David, born on August 30, 1748 in Paris, France, was a skilled painter during the French Revolution. He went to College des Quatre-Nations. His father was killed in a duel when he was a young boy, and his mother left him with his wealthy architect uncles. They wanted to send him to a school that centered on architecture, but finally accepted his dream to become a painter. While trying to pursue his dreams, he went to study with Francois Boucher. Boucher was a Rococo painter, but primarily a distant relative to David. Boucher didn’t have the same artistic view as David however, especially since the times were changing, so he sent him to his friend Joseph-Marie Vien. Vien was a painter who embraced the classical reaction to Rococo. While studying with Vien, David attempted to win the Prix de Rome four times. The first three trials ended in failure, but David did not give up. Finally, in 1774, he won. David met many influential people that helped him with his art while in Italy. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to mount to something so special and close to his heart. He even painted with Raphael Mengs and Johann Joachim Winckelmann. These two artists helped him to improve in his artistic abilities. Without their influential help, David’s work probably wouldn’t have sky...

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...y the time David was released from prison with the help of his wife, France had changed immensely. David, one of the many admirers of Napoleon, was able to attend Napoleon’s meeting and sketch him. It was 1797, and shortly after, he became the official court painter of the regime. He painted a portrait of Napoleon at the Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame, and while watching the event take place, the pope blessed David and sat next to him. After the coronation was complete, Napoleon stared at the painted canvas for an hour and replied with the words, “David, I salute you,” even though he was not fully satisfied with David’s work. David worked for Napoleon for a while, but was asked to work for King Louis XVIII when the Bourbons returned to power. He refused and stated that he rather self-exile in Brussels, where he stayed until he died on December 29, 1825.
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