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David Paperback – November 3, 1999
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Lee charts the rise of David from relative mediocrity as a highly academic painter to his enthusiastic support for the Revolution of 1789, culminating in his remarkable painting Marat Breathing His Last (1793). Arrested and narrowly avoiding execution in the political backlash following the overthrow of Robespierre, David turned his back on politics to concentrate on his art, only to find himself catapulted back into the political limelight with his fervent embrace of Napoleon Bonaparte. This loyalty formed the foundation of some of David's most imposing paintings, from the equestrian portraits of Napoleon to the pomp of The Coronation of the Emperor and Empress. But once again, David's political hopes were dashed with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815, which led the painter into self-imposed exile in Brussels, where he died a decade later.
Despite Lee's rather wooden prose, this is a thorough, detailed, and generously illustrated study of a fascinatingly contradictory, patrician, but technically brilliant painter. --Jerry Brotton
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Top Customer Reviews
From the introduction, my fear was dispelled and I knew I was in for a treat. The author discusses David's personal life, his political ideas and involvement, the relevant historical details, and David's works. The illustrations are wonderful and aside from David's paintings and sketches, the works of artists like Boucher, Vien, Caravaggio, Poussin, Gros and Ingres are included. Lee generally gives a fair amount of analysis on each of David's works. Most students will recognize The Oath of the Horatii, The Death of Socrates, and Marat Breathing his Last but will also see and learn about The Coronation, The Distribution of the Eagle Standards, Brutus, Intervention of the Sabine Women, Belisarius Receiving Alms and Mars Disarmed By Venus, to name a few. Regarding the politics of the French Revolution, Lee discusses David's role, his allies, his enemies, and his skillful use of paintings as propaganda. We see David shift from painter to the monarchy to painter for the Revolution to painter for Napoleon to painter for himself, warts and all. One should not assume that Lee candy-coats the issues in this book. He neither presents David as a flawless genius nor spoils the book with pretentious blather. The text is informative and sophisticated without being cumbersome or haughty.
Other great features of the book include a convenient glossary, short biographies on pertinent figures, a map and a timeline. Whether you are an expert art historian or a student, you will find this book to be a great addition.
PHAIDON traditionally provides small scale but well produced biographies of artists and this is no exception. The generous sampling of David's paintings is richly saturated with color and the annotations provided by Simon are correct and well researched. This may not be the definitive volume on this important artist, but it is a fine introduction to a tragic hero whose dramatic changes in both art and political history are worthy of study. Grady Harp, March 11
Most Recent Customer Reviews
220 x 160 mm, 352 pp, 205 illustrations: small, but of good quality. Brilliant text: lots of information and easy to read.Published on August 23, 2010 by Beat Mischler
This is the perfect book for anyone interested in the work of David. His career is described is step by step detail with quality reproductions of his paintings to accompany the... Read morePublished on September 17, 2009 by Warren Hull