Jacques-Louis David: The Ultimate Survivor

I refer to neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David as the "ultimate survivor" because he worked within the circles of power before, during and after the Revolution. One of his most famous paintings is of the inventor and aristocrat Antoine Lavoisier- a great chemist and the discoverer of oxygen. Lavoisier would lose his head during the terror.

David was a supporter of the Revolution and of Marat whose death he made famous in the following painting. Notice how Marat is painted in the style of the dead Christ or a martyred saint. In no time at all Marat would be so celebrated as a symbol of the Revolution that thinking of him in sacred terms would become almost normal.
After the Revolution David became the official painter to Napoleon Bonaparte. Two of his most famous paintings of the emperor are Napoleon Crossing the Alps (he is shown on a white stallion, but in reality it was a mule) and The Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine (the painting is filled with the actual portraits of important members of Napoleon's government and his family members). The Louvre Museum in Paris has the single largest collection of David's paintings although his enormous portrait of Lavoisier and his wife is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The following is a very nice slide show of some of David's paintings. This is a good introduction to his vast output of mythological and historical paintings and his portraits.


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