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19 th Century Neoclassicism. Context. • 1. Neoclassicism is a reaction against Rococo art - - Rejection of art made primarily to please, was decorative, escapist, bucolic, pastoral, and fantasy.

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19th Century Neoclassicism


•1. Neoclassicism is a reaction against Rococo art-- Rejection of art made primarily to please, was decorative, escapist, bucolic, pastoral, and fantasy.

2. Neoclassicism is a logical conclusion to 18th century Naturalism– Expresses new sensibility in art which reflects new thinking in France of middle class people. The nobility of work and the simple life (Rousseau), reason and moral integrity (not hedonism/luxury) (Voltaire), and edification/content (not escape/fantasy) (Diderot).

3. Neoclassicism is an expression of The Enlightenment (The Age of Reason)– Rousseau, Locke, Diderot, Voltaire.

- Thinking about the world, independent of religion, myth, or tradition.

- Mankind can only find truth by using rational thought and evidence to support it (Locke’s Doctrine of Empiricism)

4. Revival of interest in Ancient Greece/Rome– Winckelmann’s writings, new discoveries of antiquity, Herculaneum/Pompeii, Piranesi’s prints of Rome.

5. The French Revolution adopts Neoclassicismand the Greek ideal of liberty and democracy in the light of reason and in reaction to the repressive monarchy. Propaganda – painting was used to promote the revolutionary ideals and highest virtues of the revolution.

6. Napoleon adopts Neoclassicism– painting and architecture served political agenda – propaganda – Napoleon saw himself as the new “Caesar” of a new empire, with Paris as the new Rome. Architectural programs promote that grandiose self-image – glorification of Napoleon in paintings.

Napoleon on his

Imperial Throne

Ingres. 1806.

• The disarray of the aftermath of the French Revolution left the door open to Napoleon Bonaparte to create a new kind of monarchy, with himself as emperor.

• In 1799, after serving in various French army commands and leading campaigns in Italy ad Egypt, Napoleon became First Consul of the French Republic (a title with clear and intentional links to the ancient Roman Republic).

• Over the next 15 years, Napoleon gained control of almost all of continental Europe through alliances.

• He became Emperor of the French in 1804.

• He lead a disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, and was then defeated by the British at Waterloo in present-day Belgium. He then abdicated the throne and went into exile on the island of St. Helena, where he died six years later.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Crossing the St. Bernard Pass (Alps)

David. 1800.

Oil on canvas.

8’11” x 7’7”

• After the death of Robespierre in 1794, David barely escaped alive. He stood trial and went briefly to prison.

• David worked to re-establish his reputation, and, in 1804, Napoleon offered him the position of First Painter of the Empire.

• Napoleon sought to build an empire similar to that of Ancient Rome, and favored David’s Neoclassical style.

• In this painting (also known as Napoleon Crossing the Alps), David depicted Napoleon in the Grand Manner, using artistic license to imagine how Napoleon might have appeared as he led his troops into Italy.

• What descriptive terms describe this painting?

• What about this painting communicates Napoleon’s greatness?

Napoleon Crossing St. Bernard (Alps)

• When he became emperor, Napoleon chose to crown himself (instead of having the pope crown him), as well as his wife, Josephine (who kneels before him to receive her crown).

• Which figure is Pope Pius VII?

• How are the other figures organized?

• This painting mixes actual aspects of the event (such as the faithful depiction of the interior of Notre Dame, Paris, in which the event took place) as well as invented aspects Napoleon insisted be included (such as the presence of his mother, who refused to attend in reality, in the center of the background, and the pope’s gesture of blessing).

• What aspects of the painting indicate the tensions between church an state at the time?

• This large-scale painting depicts the pomp and pageantry of the event, serving as propaganda of Napoleon’s power.

• After Napoleon fell from power, David was put into exile in Brussels, where he died in 1825.

Coronation of Napoleon

Coronation of


David. 1808.

Oil on canvas.

20’4” x 32’1”

• Napoleon also used classical architecture to underscore his imperial authority.

• The church of La Madeleine had already been started, but construction had halted in 1790.

• Napoleon converted the building into a “temple of glory” for France’s imperial armies (the structure again reverted to a church after Napoleon’s defeat).

• The architect Pierre Vignon designed the building with a high podium and a broad flight of stairs leading to a deep porch with Corinthian columns in the front.

• This recalls the Maison Carree at Nimes, France, linking Napoleon and the Roman empires.

• Strangely, the interior is covered by a sequence of three domes, a feature found in Byzantine and Romanesque churches.

La Madeleine

La Madeleine

Pierre Vignon

1807-1842. Paris, France.

Pauline Borghese as Venus his imperial authority.

Antonio Canova. 1808.

Marble, 6’ 7” long.

• Napoleon also favored Neoclassical sculpture. His favorite sculptor was Antonio Canova, an Italian sculptor who was famous for his depictions of Roman gods and goddesses.

• Canova made numerous portraits, in Neoclassical style, of the emperor and his family.

• Pauline Borghese was Napoleon’s sister. Although Canova suggested depicting her as Diana, goddess of the hunt, she insisted upon being depicted as Venus, goddess of love.

• She reclines gracefully, holding the golden apple in her left hand, symbol of the goddess’ triumph in the judgment of Paris.

• Evocative of Venus de Milo and Roman sarcophagus lids.

• Napoleon arranged the marriage of his sister to an heir of the noble Roman Borghese family, but once Pauline was in Rome, gossip began about her undignified affairs.

• Because of his wife’s questionable reputation (and the connotations of her depiction as the goddess of love), Prince Camillo Borghese (the work’s official patron), kept the sculpture sequestered in the Villa Borghese in Rome, allowing few to see the portrait.

Pauline Borghese as Venus

• David’s success lead to many talented young artists seeking him out as a teacher. He influenced many great artist’s of the next generation, namely Ingres (“Angrh”), Girodet-Trioson, and Gros.

• David insisted that his students learn Latin and study the ancient author Plutarch. As such, his students’ work shows Neoclassical elements, although he also encouraged them to find their own artistic paths.

• Burial of Atala, based on the novel The Genius of Christianity, is an important bridge between Neoclassicism and Romanticism.

• The novel tells the story of two Native Americans in Louisiana, Atala and Chactas. They are from different tribes, but fall in love and run away together. Atala, sworn to lifelong virginity, commits suicide rather than break her oath.

• The eroticism (underlying sexual tension) and exoticism (European curiosity in what was to them a strange, foreign people) made the story highly popular. Appealed to emotion.

• Atala is buried, with the assistance of a cloaked priest, in the shadow of a cross, showing the Christianization of the New World.

• Girodet-Trioson also depicted Jean-Baptiste Belley, a native of Senegal and former slave who had bought his own freedom, and became a French legislator.

Burial of Atala

Burial of Atala

Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson.

1808. Oil on canvas.

6’11” x 8’9”.

Jean-Baptiste Belley

Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson.

1797. Oil on canvas.

Apotheosis of Homer seeking him out as a teacher. He influenced many great artist’s of the next generation, namely Ingres (“

Ingres. 1827. Oil on canvas.

12’8” x 16’ 11”.

• In Ingres’ large-scale painting, Winged Victory (or Fame) crowns the epic poet Homer, who sits like a god on a throne before an Ionic temple.

• At Homer’s feet are two women, personifications of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the offspring of his imagination.

• Symmetrically grouped around him is a company of the “sovereign geniuses” – as Ingres called them – who expressed humanity’s highest ideals in philosophy, poetry, music, and art. On the right:

  • Anacreon (poet, with his lyre)

  • Phidias with his sculptor’s hammer

  • Plato and Socrates

  • Horace and Vergil (poets)

  • Dante

  • Raphael (as the painting echoes School of Athens)

  • On the left:

  • - Poussin (pointing) and Shakespeare (half concealed), Moliere, Voltaire, and other French writers.

    • How did Ingres organize the figures logically?

Apotheosis of Homer

Grande Odalisque seeking him out as a teacher. He influenced many great artist’s of the next generation, namely Ingres (“

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

1814. Oil on canvas. 3’ x 5’4”.

• This painting depicts a nude woman reclining in an odalisque, or Turkish harem.

• The woman followed the grand tradition of antiquity and the Renaissance figures. Ingres borrowed Raphael’s type of female head.

• The woman’s languid pose, small head, and elongated limbs, and the generally cool color scheme reveal the painter’s debt to Parmigianino and the Italian Mannerists.

• The setting, an odalisque, conceded to the new Romantic taste for the exotic.

• The strange mixture of styles lead to sharp criticism. Critics saw Ingres as a rebel in both the form and content of his work, until in the mid-1820s, a new painter, Delacroix, lead the movement of Romantic art. By comparison, Ingres’ paintings seemed more traditional and Neoclassical than they had previously.

Grande Odalisque