Jacques-Louis David

Art on this Day
Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), an influential French painter considered the leading figure of Neo-Classicism, was born on this day in Paris.


After deciding to be a painter, David enrolled at age seventeen in the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. While in Italy, David especially studied the works of 17th-century masters such as Poussin, Caravaggio, and the Carracci. Also, he studied Roman bas-reliefs, and more importantly, began to look at the world with a Roman eye, that is with a social republicanism. After married with Marguerite Charlotte in Paris, he went back to Rome and painted his famous ‘Oath of the Horatii’ which stresses the importance of masculine self-sacrifice for one’s country and patriotism.
David later became an active supporter of the French Revolution and was effectively a dictator of the arts under the French Republic. Over the 20 years, he recorded the major events of the French Revolution in paintings such as The Tennis Court Oath, The Death of Marat and Marie Antoinette on the Way to the Guillotine.