Neoclassical painting did not have models of classical painting, therefore drawing was based on sculpture. This drawing was then applied a conventional color or left without color; the light was clear, diffuse and vague. For this reason, the painters were extraordinary draughtsmen, practicing the so-called academy drawing that copies natural models. Compositions will be characterized by symmetry.
In the themes the classics, historical and mythological predominate. France will be the center of style and the Exhibition Hall of the Old Academy will concentrate the artists who will exhibit if they adapt to the rules of the Academy and a demanding jury. The State will be the main client. Napoleon used this art as a propaganda tool; he even had artists accompany him on the battlefield to take notes.
The maximum representative of neoclassical painting is the Frenchman David, the uniqueness of this artist prevailed over contemporary artists perhaps due to his involvement as a revolutionary activist in times of Robespierre and court painter under Napoleon's rule.
Jacques Louis David trains in the workshop of Boucher (Rococó) who soon discovers David's facility for drawing, which is why he directs him to the academic painter's workshop Vien.
Neither one nor the otherthey will be decisive for the formation of David. It will be his time in Rome that will influence him the most, the direct knowledge of the ruins and the great Italian masters of the 17th century.
he Cultivated classical painting, inspired by Greco-Roman reliefs, from which he copied the symmetry, the lack of depth and the ordering of parallel figures
In the Oath of the Horace made in 1784 and later considered as the manifesto of pictorial neoclassicism, it describes the oath that the three Horace brothers make in front of their father to fight for Rome against the three Curiacean brothers; a moralizing work inspired by the history of ancient Rome and Corneille's play "The Horace", where he praises love for the country and individual sacrifice. He too formally derives from the Roman world; in the composition the two different groups are clearly presented: that of the Horatii arranged in parallel according to the Roman relief technique, that of the father who gives the arms, and the group of women whose desolation contrasts with the arrogant attitude of the protagonists. Everything has a theatrical character, with the background architecture in semicircular arches and Doric columns marking the perspective. The chromatic element is subordinated to the drawing and the sculptural modeling of forms. It was David's first official commission by the Prime Minister of Fine Arts, achieving the highest recognition for her at the French Salon.
The Abduction of the Sabine Women, shows their conciliatory desirebetween the Romans and the Sabines. Painted after the Directory (1799), in it he calls for the reconciliation of France. He disdains movement. Instead of emphasizing the moment of the abduction, as a baroque painter would have done, he opts for the pacifying zeal of the Sabine women.
When the Revolution broke out, David completely withdrew from politics. Appointed Superintendent of Fine Arts, he abolished the Academy and subjected art to a personal dictatorship. He showed himself to be an implacable enemy of Rococo art. From this period stand out the Oath of the ball and The death of Marat in which the force of emotion prevails over classicism. It presents the death of the hero in a sober and serene tone, eliminating everything accessory, giving priority to austerity.
When Napoleon came to power, David was appointed Chamber Painter (1804-1816). Responding to the emperor's request for him, he set about creating a new imperial style, the perfect example of which is theCoronation of the Emperor, in a setting of luxury inherent to the court. It represents the moment in which the new emperor prepares to crown Josefina in the presence of the Pope. It is a gallery of portraits of characters with a composition that becomes lavish and motley with warm tones.
When Napoleon fell, David was exiled and died in Brussels in 1825. The life and work of this painter legitimize the relationship between French neoclassical painting and the Revolution.
Among his disciples stood out:Gros,GèrardandPrud´hon.