The most representative artist of neoclassicism was Jacques Louis David (1748-1825). David was the government’s official painter of the French Revolution, revolution advocate and participant. He once acted as the art director of Republic Education and Culture Committee in the Jacobin dictatorship and played an important role in the politics. David was the strict follower of the classical traditions and admirer of ancient art. He was subject to the existing system of art and emphasized the powerful structure relationship of ancient art to pursue concise, simple and solemn feeling. The excessive rational pursuit led to the indifference and stiffness and also lost the originality of art.
David’s works had balance rational composition with very strict character modeling and classical painting skills. He was good at handling dynamic characters and drama and often used Caravaggio light to highlight the main characters, but his character attitude may have dull traces.
David was initially affected Boucher’s art, because he was the distant relative of Boucher. He later became the student of classical painter Vien. When he was 18 years old, he entered art school to receive the systematic training of theories and skills. After a hard and bitter struggle, David finally won the highest award -the scholarship to study in Rome.
In 1774, he went to Italy where he studied the works of masters and gradually formed his neoclassical style. He returned to his motherland in 1781 and created a series of ancient hero’s spirit paintings The Oath of the Horatii, The Death of Socrates (1781), and Brutus executing his son (1789) to sing the praises of the Republic and revolution. He also had actively involved in the revolutionary movement.
Later, David became Napoleon’s court painter and created many merit works for Napoleon. During this period, under the leadership of David, the neoclassical movement even spread to the French ways of life, even the hair style and coat were Greece and Rome style. Women no longer girdled their waist and men lost their wigs, furniture and furnishings were also as succinct as possible. This retro lasted for decades. After the Bourbon Restoration, as the trial participant of Louis XVI, David was deprived of his civil right and property, and was forced to leave his homeland to settle in Brussels where David also completed many works, and finally died in a strange land.