Artists and Political Ideas

The political arena in the nineteenth century was immense in many parts of the world, especially in the European part of the world. The pressure was felt as far as in the world of arts, which saw many artists use their artwork to put specific political messages across. The target audience is the common public and sometimes the leaders and politicians of that time. This submission will discuss two artists of the nineteenth century and also study how their art influenced the political arena, the circumstances surrounding the artworks and the message that the artwork intended to pass. In the submission, the artworks of Jacques Louis David and Gustave Courbet will form the basis of the discussion.

Jacques Louis David

Jacques Louis David was a painter, who used the neoclassical style of painting his artwork. He was a French national and is considered on the greatest painters of his time. His landmark paintings trace back from the Rococo type of art, onwards to the classical styles. During the last regime of Ancien, Jacques Louise David had harmonized the moral and the climatic feeling that came in between the Rococo and the classical austerity. Jacques Louis David’s political work began when he began being a close follower and supporter of the French Revolution. Besides, he made a close friendship to Maximilien Robespierre.

Those that viewed is works during that time saw the dictatorship of the arts in the entire French Republic. His political inclinations saw him imprisoned after the fall of his close friend, Robespierre from power. He, however, became a close associate of Napoleon. This new friendship with Napoleon saw him develop the empire style of art, which involved using Venetian colors that were warm. His political influence was so magnificent and notable due to the many followers and pupils that he had. Below are two of his artworks that had a significant impact on the field of politics, and the circumstances that led to their drawing.

The Tennis Court Oath.

Jacques Louis David attempted to leave his artistic career through his drawing called, The Tennis Court Oath. This period was during the commencement of the French revolution. The painting, The Tennis Court Oath resulted, not from volition to draw it but from commissioning by the leaders at that time. The picture was commissioned to commemorate the Tennis Oath Court. The art was, however, no completed due to many political difficulties that made it impossible for artists to achieve works that had political affiliation messages. The Tennis Court Oath resulted from the meeting of Estate General which was convened to sort out the issues in the monarchy.

A difference occurred as a result of an argument as to how the three estates would meet. The two conflicting thoughts were whether the meeting was to be held separately for each of the estates or whether the estates would fit as a single unit as had been the tradition. As a result of Kings acquiescing with the grievances raised by the houses, the deputies to the estates declared themselves as the Parliament. This step made things tough for them as they were excluded from the Tennis Court meeting, despite their efforts to join in the conference.

These deputies to the estates were excluded from the meeting for three days in an attempt to reconvene the meeting. Jean-Sylvain Bailly presided over the meeting in which a solemn oath was made by the participants, stressing the need for them to the unit and never separate again. The creation of a national constitution could only occasion the separation. The meeting and the swearing of the oath by the estates was depicted as a sign of national unity, to be held against the Ancien Regime.  The symbolism in the painting represented the political revolutions that were taking place at the time of its drawing.

The Death of Marat.

The Death of Marat is the most popular of the arts done by Jacques Louis David. The masterpiece was inspired by the assassination of Marat who was a close friend to David. Marat was assassinated using a knife that Charlotte Corday had hidden in her clothes. The latter gained access to the house of Marat in the pretense that she was offering him a list of people who were enemies of France to be executed. Marat fell into the trap and what followed was the promise by Marat that those mentioned in the list would be put to Guillot the following day. In the heat of passion, Charlotte Corday stabbed Marat, killing him in the event. She was executed later on.

The main reason behind why Corday assassinated Marat was the reason that Marat was of an opposing political party. The above circumstances led to the painting Death of Marat by David. This painting by Jacques Louis David has been described as the father of the revolution. As he was presenting the Death of Marat to the convention, he spoke to the public about the need to avenge the death of Marat. He said that the vengeance and the public demand resulted in him into picking up his brushes and painting a powerful image to represent the heed to the call.

The painting, The Death of Marat is depicted as the image that speaks so loudly, calling out the names of both Marat and David in the echoes of revolution in the world. The painting remains, up to date as a testimony of what an artists’ political inclinations and association can yield. The main idea that David manifested in this work was that of a political martyr, in the form of Marat. It is after this assassination of Marat that war broke out between France and almost all nations in the continent of Europe.

Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet was a realist, popularly known for his frontline work of pioneering realism in the French paintings that were done in the nineteenth century. His philosophy and guiding light in his pictures was the fact that he painted which he could observe with his eyes. His behavior meant that he gave no regard to the Romanticism and the academic conventions that were deeply enshrined in the artworks of the generations that painted before him. His artworks formed a guiding light to the artists who came after him, mainly due to his open-mindedness and independence of his ideas. The cubists and the Impressionists are examples of groups of artists that relied on the work of Gustave Courbet. Courbet’s paintings made significant social statements from his innovation in the French pictures of the nineteenth century.

The realism in the work of Gustave Courbet arose from the fact that he painted a direct observation from nature and depicting its shortcomings. In contextualizing Courbet’s work, his painting did not belong to any of the neoclassical schools or the romantic school of thoughts. He maintained the idea that an exemplary artist is the one that can observe nature and translate what he can find on a piece of work.  Courbet’s artworks were mainly landscapes and other drawing that were conceived from his imagination. Out of those social issues, he could sometimes generate political sensation. An example is a painting focusing on the peasants and their poor working conditions. Such pictures would be targeted to the leadership of the day to do something about the lives of the peasants.

The Artist’s Studio

The painting is a summary of the life of Courbet as an artist. The outline depicts the life of Courbet as that of a hero, whose world is torn between two sets of characters. On his right hand are friends, admirers of his artwork, while on the left side are his critics and opposers. For instance, on the right hand, he places people like Alfred Buyas and Charles Baudelaire. On the left, however, he has placed religious leaders, hookers and gravediggers who represent the other side of life. The other hand of life means that they are the people that live in poverty, wealth and misery.

The left-hand side has a foreground that depicts a male, in the company of dogs that are presumed to be his. The man is a representation of Napoleon III, who at that time was the incumbent French emperor. The emperor’s identity is known from the presence of his fierce hunting dogs and an exceptional mustache. Courbet placed the emperor on the left-hand side of the painting to characterize that he is a criminal and that he is an illegitimate and a dictatorial, unjust regime.

This representation of the emperor is so essential in the helm of politics as it depicts the real political situation as it is in France. This art was a reasonable basis of revolutionizing the leadership of the French as the current administration was wicked and illegitimate. The political ideologies contained in this piece of art spread to other artists of his time such as Eugene Delacroix. Revolutionists and activists flank Courbet for spreading the truth about the governance of the emperor to the entire republic through artwork.

Burial at Ornans

This painting depicted the life of Courbet and his experience when he attended the burial of his father at a place called Ornans. The members of the public that were present at the burial were used as models to make the paintings. In the real sense, the picture represented the people and their lives at the town of Ornans. People may wonder why he chose to draw the people of Ornans, amid other things that he could draw. The piece of art represented the death and burial of romanticism. During the period in which the Burial at Ornans was painted, the incumbent emperor, Napoleon had demonstrated dictatorial and despotic characteristics.

The painting depicted the people at the two of Ornans as ugly and worn-out, representing the current state of affairs of the people. The emperor’s regime had oppressed the people, creating the nasty and wariness depicted by the people. For instance, elections were manipulated by the government of Napoleon, using the censorship of the press to curb the spread of revolutionary ideas and curtailing the right to expression. The Burial at Ornans made the liberals in France to embrace the ideas of Courbet. The emperor made reforms to address the grievances of the revolutionaries. This step made people like Courbet gain popularity among the progressives for the purposes they spread through artwork, especially pieces like The Burial at Ornans.