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Necklines: The Art of Jacques-Louis David after the Terror Hardcover – October 11, 1999

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

No artist was more closely tied to the French Revolution than the neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. Twice imprisoned for his political activities during the Terror, David left a visual record of the changes sweeping the French art world, which included a new professional autonomy for the artist and new studio practices, and of the changes in gender relations in late-18th-century France, such as new divorce laws and new scientific approaches to the female body. Relying upon the psychoanalytic studies of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, Harvard professor Lajer-Burcharth looks at the pleasure-seeking upper echelons of French society through David's work. Lajer-Burcharth has a knack for helping the reader to visualize a painting (she compares a shadow behind one of David's figures to "a black stain leaking from a body"), and her discussion of how David used history painting to free himself from prison is intriguing. Unfortunately, her dense jargon hampers what could have been an exciting text in the vein of Katherine Fischer Taylor's In the Theater of Criminal Justice, an earlier study of post-Revolutionary France that used a narrow focus to dramatize major cultural shifts. 11 color plates not seen by PW; 165 b&w illus. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Focusing on the period after the fall of Robespierre, Lajer-Burcharth (humanities, Harvard) reframes David's art in relation to gender tensions within French society at the time and within the artist's vision of himself. The methodologies of gender studies and semiotics are the focus of her argument, which sacrifices traditional art historical analysis. The author demonstrates how revolutionary dress and the stresses and losses it implied were reflected in the instability of David's art and his place as a revolutionary artist in French society. While trying to offer a new perspective on David and on visual representation during this period of French history, Lajer-Burcharth often looses her focus by cloaking David and his art in literary theory and opaque jargon. Recommended only for art libraries that support graduate programs in art history. While concentrating on the same time period, Roberts examines David and Jean-Louis Prieur, the most popular illustrator of the period, within a post-Marxist framework. Roberts first defines the Revolution in the theoretical terms of J?rgen Habermas's bourgeois public sphere, which is separate from the political sphere of the state. He also discusses Roger Chartier's idea of the division of the educated elite from the masses during the French Revolution. With these theoretical underpinnings, the author examines Prieur and David, who in their art reflected the concerns of both the plebeian "peuple" and the educated "public" of the salons. A detailed historical account of the key moments of the Revolution is included and related to the works of both men. This scholarly study is recommended only for libraries that support graduate programs in art or French history.
-Sandra Rothenberg, Framingham State Coll. Lib., MA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (October 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300074212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300074215
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
I have read a number of books on Jacques-Louis David and this book has some of the most unique (bizarre) ideas on David's artwork I have come across. This is not exactly a pleasurable read either. It is a very esoteric work, and unless you can buy a cheap used copy, it is not really worth the high price. If you are interested in it, I suggest checking it out at the library(it is not something you will read twice). The book does provide a good deal of insight into the culture of post-revolutionary France. It is a nice quality book (although with current printing technology all the images should be in color and the book should not be so expensive). After reading the book, I think that a lot of the interpretations of David's art do not have a strong basis and the author is stretching her imagination with what she thinks David's work reveals.
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By A Customer on September 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The great thing about art commentaries is that just about anything can be written. JL David was, of course, the Revolutionary artist supremo of his day. His arguably most famous paintings were the Oath of the Horatii, the death of Marat, the unfinished Tennis Court oath and of course the Sacre plus numerous historical paintings. What is most telling is David's role in casting the revolution in a masculine manner.
This remarkable book recasts JL David's paintings in a bold new way - he was obseesed with the naked form and really was casting the revolution in a feminine manner, and hence drew and sketched all his figures in the nude, then finishing them as clothed figures. Also, he was acting out his girlish fantasies and some of his figures have an effiminate look to them. Wow!
This line of psychoanalysis is all new to me, the fact that one can project thought patterns on a person's mind 200 years ago just by linking up some letters to some sketches and paintings. Necklines of course refers to the low cut on female clothing, especially his Grecian or Roman-clad women and the fact that David himself came very close to losing his head.
It had never occurred to the author that sketching nude figs was David's usual modus operandi in drawing, as confirmed by other art historians. And his painting of Julie Recamier? The same person was also drawn by Gerard and it looked as if two different persons were depicted. It's debatable as to whether this was a great painting. The patron rejected it anyhow.
I did enjoy the fantasy ride, though.
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