Jacques-Louis David (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: David was the founder of nineteenth century neoclassicism. His participation in the political events of his time directed not only the course of his own art but that of European painting as well.
Jacques-Louis David’s birth on August 30, 1748, coincided with the beginning of many profound political, social, and aesthetic changes in France. He was born in Paris into the merchant-and-artisan middle class, although his grandmother was the cousin of François Boucher, first painter to the king. During his early schooling, David was by all accounts an indifferent student who preferred drawing to any of his other studies. In 1764, at the age of sixteen, having declared his firm resolve to become a painter, David sought the help of Boucher. Although no longer accepting students himself, Boucher saw promise in the young David and advised that he study with Joseph Vien, a professor at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Vien was, according to Boucher, a good painter and teacher, but somewhat cold. He advocated a return to classical antiquity as a source of moral as well as artistic inspiration; his own work, however, consisted mostly of superficial borrowings of classical motifs that lacked understanding of the true meaning of the classical spirit.
After two years in Vien’s studio, David entered the academy as a student. In the light of his subsequent actions against the...
(The entire section is 1977 words.)
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