Influence Of French Revolution On Art

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The French Revolution and the Art it Influenced
“Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; - the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!” wrote the famous author Charles Dickens, in his classic book, The Tale of Two Cities. The French Revolution (1789-1796) was a fight for liberty and equality, which ultimately led to the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, by way of guillotine. And, eventually Napoleon Bonaparte became the ruler of France. This was a transforming time in not just France’s history, but European history and World history. The people of France were fed up with the monarchy and the burden of high taxes, as the monarch rulers squandered money away while the people faced famine and poverty. The Revolution was so powerful that artists not only painted about it, but they became revolutionaries themselves, like Jacques-Louis David, who is famous for his works, Oath of the Horratii, and Napoleon Crossing the Alps. In 1830, the second French Revolution broke out and this was known as the “Three Glorious Days”, in which the people of France protested Charles X after he imposed ordinances that prevented freedom of the press and increased the power of his monarchy (“French Revolution”, n.d.). The famous allegorical painting by Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, is a historical depiction of the second French Revolution and illustrates the connection between socioeconomic and political issues, and art. This paper will look at David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps, and Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and analyze the impact of the French Revolution on art of those periods.

Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) was one of the most famous Neoclassist painters, as well as a devout revolutionary in 19th century France. He painted works that some consider propaganda of the time, yet he did so in pure Neoclassical fashion (Pollitt, n.d.). Eventually, he became the personal painter for Napoleon Bonaparte, as he continued to support the revolution through art. In Napoleon Crossing the Alps, we see a diagonal, yet static composition. The diagonal that is created by the horse is reminiscent of Baroque figures, yet it lacks the movement that the Baroque style portrayed so well.
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