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The Enlightenment era made a very strong impact on art we create today. The Enlightenment era had three philosophies: neoclassical, romanticism, and realism. All three of these ended up tying together in immense ways. A revolution had begun in 1789, which in result, the art of these eras became dark and depressing. They had many similarities in not only the works of art, but also in the artists. Two works that pose as an example of this would be Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David and Saturn Devouring One of His Children by Francisco Goya.
Death of Marat was created by Jacques-Louis David in 1793. This work of art was created with oil paint on a canvas. In the painting, it shows the murder of Jean-Paul Marat. Marat was a writer for the revolution, who was not only influential to the revolution, but was David’s friend as well. Marat was depicted lying in a bathtub against a dark wall. He is slumped to the side and has a smile on his face. You can see the red blood in the water, on the white sheets behind him and on the paper in his hands. He holds a quill pen in his right hand and you can see the knife to the left of his right hand on the floor. The scene is based off of the moment when a rival political faction member, Charlotte Corday had stabbed him to death while he was writing in the bath tub. The colors of this painting are very muddy and dull, but the story behind it is dark, and almost monstrous. This was a Neoclassical painting and the first war-like painting. It was the beginning of the dark and somewhat savage art works (Kleiner, 785).
Saturn Devouring One of His Children was created by Francisco Goya somewhere from 1819 to 1823. This artwork was originally created as a fresco, but later was detached and mounted onto a canvas. It shows the mythological tale about Saturn devouring his son, after he had learned about a prophecy that said one of his own children would dethrone him. This dark fresco shows saturn as a large monster with wild eyes and muddy skin, holding a mangled small body. The body is made to be more human like, even though it is headless and its arm is being shoved into Saturn’s large mouth. There is bright red blood dripping down the body and pooling around Saturn’s hands. The scene is extremely gory and disturbing. It is made up of muddy dull colors and makes the viewers stomach twist in disgust and horror. Goya created this fresco to express his depression about the passing of time. Saturn’s Greek name, Kronos, is extremely similar the the Greek word khronos, which means time. This is what encouraged the idea from his artwork. This piece is from the romanticism philosophy which presents the dark emotional artworks that romanticism should convey (Kleiner, 805).
Both of these artworks are very similar in many aspects, contextually and visually. Both have historical element behind them. Death of Marat is a propaganda painting based off of an assassination of one of his close friends. It is a true historical event that had previously happened. Saturn Devouring One of His Children is a historical mythological tale, however, it is not based off of true events. This artwork also has an emotional story behind it and is more personal rather than propaganda for the revolution. They both convey death, sadness, and violence, which is brought on by the revolution. Both of these painting have extremely muddy and dark colors, except for the lightness of skin and the bright red blood. Both of them are against dark backgrounds. All together these artworks are very similar in many ways.
Jacques-Louis David was an artist who became one of the most famous painters during the French Revolution. David was a propaganda painters and made many painting to show what was happening in the revolution and help people think. David believed that paintings should represent moral and should represent noble events in history (Kleiner, 782). Francisco Goya was David’s contemporary, which is most likely why their two works are so similar. However, other than Death of Marat and Saturn Devouring One of His Children, their artworks have barely anything in common (Kleiner, 803). Goya had suffered from an unknown illness that made him temporarily blind, deaf, and paralyzed, but later recovered all but his hearing. Over time he became extremely negative and discouraged. His later artwork, “Black Paintings”, where the outcome of his state of mind, including Saturn Devouring One of His Children (Kleiner, 804). Although the artists and most of their work have barely nothing in common, except Goya working underneath David, Death of Marat and Saturn Devouring One of His Children have quite a bit in common.
The Enlightenment eras art was dark and violent because of the French Revolution, and you can really see the transition to the darkness in the three philosophies. Especially in the Neoclassical and Romanticism philosophies. Most of the artwork from this time revolved around death, depression, and propaganda. Although some art differed from one another, most had mirrored the darkness and violence from the others. Death of Marat and Saturn Devouring One of His Children had many similarities both contextually and visually.
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