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The French Revolution lasted around 10 years. It was a time of turmoil, despair, bravery, patriotism and violence. While the public of all classes (except the higher wealthier classes of course) were suffering and it was quite a dampening milieu, art was still a popular way to intrigue, excite, and mobilize people and their beliefs. All kinds of artists were inspired by this new theme of the French Revolution that was taking place around them and in both the Neoclassical period and the Romantic period, artists created beautiful works of art in accordance with current events of the time.
A great example of how the French Revolution influenced the Neoclassical period of art is the Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David. Marat was a publisher who was murdered by Charlotte Corday, presumably a woman he was going to publish a piece of. Marat was a dear friend of David’s and shown in remarkable detail in the painting is his death and the introduction of Charlotte he was working on. David has sort of commemorated Marat in his paintings by using very Christian aspects of the Crucifixion which makes us think, did David try to glorify the people who died in the French Revolution and make them equal to the Christian sufferings of before? We will never really know.
The Romantic period is one of my favorite periods of western art till now. The color and excitement that comes from the art at that time is really invigorating. A great example of this feeling is when I look at Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix. We can see the obvious influence Eugène has had when it came to the French Revolution. This painting shows a beautiful and large woman holding the tricolored flag of France moving forward with a determined and strong resolute. This woman, Liberty, is said to show how Eugène felt about the war and how she felt the people of France would come out of it, victorious and strong. She also didn’t forget to leave out the sad aspects of this revolution like the dead bodies of soldiers, and citizens all around. There is a background of sadness with a foreground of hope in this painting.
When there is media, there is inspiration, and when there is inspiration, there is something going on. Environmental factors, social and political events and internal feelings affect a lot of what we project. The same goes for the artists of the 18th and 19th centuries. A lot of things that were happening at that time came through their art to tell a story or to even inform us of which side they took. As mentioned in the essay, the French Revolution was quite brutal and violent but it also gave us some incredible pieces of work only because their central theme was the Revolution itself. I wonder how in the far future people will judge our time from the art we produce.
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