Art History Jan 9 2013
Jacques Louis David
Hierarchy of genres
King Louis XVI
Queen Marie Antoinette
The French Academy
Age of Enlightenment
French Revolution 1789-99
“The Oath of the Horatii” by David 1784 – Consider the art institution called the Academy and what this
work can tell us about the French Academy and what constitutes Academic practices. How can it help us
understand an artist in the particular moment in time? How does this project have a life when it leaves
the artist studio and how does it change?
What do we see?
A subject taken from Roman history, not from the artist’s lifetime. The story of the Horatii family. The
brothers swear an oath to their father that they will unite forces against a rival family (Alba family).
History painting. Shows musculator which shows one’s ability to paint? Very strong contour lines.
Outline of the figures and definition of the legs. Very linear. Volumes and 3 dimnsionality of the figures.
Everything is presented with great clarity. Representation of expression and you can the skeletal form
underneath the body. Implied lines to the swords and the hands. Keeps your attention of the foreground. Makes his work different from most renaissance works. After the revolution this work came
to be known as a pictorial call to arms. These men not seen as unified under patriarchal figure but
having right to choose who they united with. Modified with perception in the modern period. Not a
Produced in oil. The work basically denies the artist’s work over the hand. You don’t see single brush
strokes. No sign of a paint brush on this canvas. Denial of the hand.
In choosing the subject david is buying into what a lot of people believed. People from Greece and
Roman times can be used to show good morals. Art had moral function, could offer something to
spectators and emulate a moral code and a virtuous political body. Messages being sent from the work
to the public. Broadly speaking about the style of work as neo classicism. David and those who
promoted neo classicism despised was art by Fragonard. They saw Rococo art as corrupt and a vacuous
society of leisure and not taking responsibility for the public space. Training comes from an institution
that is nationally run. Very well established with own studio and students. There is a privaledging of the
mind over the hand.
French Academy- promotes one’s ability to draw, 1648 (founded). It’s focus is to teach drawing. Might
want to paint but the foundation will be all about drawing. You want this national level of training if you
want to compete on the level that David does. Live Model is at the core of what they started to offer.
France has the first national academy. Established as national school at a time when artists previously
worked in another system (guild systems) Painters were connected with pharmacists because they had
what the artists were interested in to make their paints. Guilds didn’t offer enough intellect that was
why the national scene was introduced. Guild systems were concerned with craft and artisan styles. The
temptation to distance oneself from the art of craft and using your hands.
Fragonard “The hap