HISTORY OF MODERN FRANCE
From the Pre-Revolutionary period to the 3rd Republic 1770-1870 - Part IV
22 February 2023
History, War and Revolution in the art of the Romantic Painters in France, 1804-1830
Jean-Antoine-Gros masterpiece of 1804, Napoleon in Jaffa, signals the entry of contemporary history into the venerable category of “History” painting, up to then reserved to the exploits of ancient Greeks and Romans. The Romantic generation of French artists who came of age in the glory years of the Napoleonic campaigns – Gros, Géricault, Delacroix, Vernet – were the first to confront the great events of their age and attempt to find the right formulas for introducing them into their art.
In our lecture we will follow the evolution of these artists’ attempts at absorbing contemporary history into art, whether in official commissions or highly personal and controversial interpretations, like Géricault’s celebrated Raft of the Medusa (1819) or Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People
(1830). A fascination with sacrifice, death and the ravages of war and revolution give to the art of this troubled period a uniquely modern and searching quality and one that very much links it to the mood of our own.
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