Famous Neoclassical Art

ÔĽŅÔĽŅFamous Neoclassical Art

What is neoclassical art?

Neoclassical art is based on the art of ancient Greece and Rome. To define Neoclassical art it is important to remember 3 elements: classical Greco-Roman art, the balance of compositions, and proportions. 

The main theorist of Neoclassicism was Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who was the promoter of the rebirth of neoclassicism: the beauty and imitation of classical Roman and Greek antiquity.

Winckelmann's theory is part of an exciting historical discovery. In 1783 the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii were discovered. Thus, the idea spread that Greek and Roman artistic perfection was the form to be imitated to restore the image of beauty and harmony.

What are the characteristics of neoclassical art?

It was believed that neoclassical art was the highest and most complete level of taste. The neoclassical characteristics are based of the formal balance and perfection within the artwork. They excluded any feelings and emotional involvement, the art did not have to communicate emotions, but it had to be the symbol of perfection. 

It is not difficult to recognize a neoclassical work of art, because Neoclassicism is a movement characterized by distinctive features, which quickly spread throughout Europe and the New World.

Neoclassicism was a style that involved not only sculpture and painting but also architecture, literature, and music. Neoclassicism had a very surprising influence on ceramics, furniture, and fashion.

The tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri, the translations of Homer's Iliad by Vincenzo Monti, the novels of Ugo Foscolo, and the poems of Ippolito Pindemonte contributed to spreading of Neoclassicism. 

What does neoclassical mean?

The term neoclassical refers to neoclassicism; an artistic philosophy created to enhance the cult of perfection, taking up sculptures and paintings from the classical period of ancient Rome and Greece, using them as inspiration for the creation of new works of art.

When did neoclassical art begin?

It began in the mid-eighteenth century and ended with the Napoleonic Empire in 1815. Neoclassicism arose from ancient concepts of beauty and perfection and expanded, under the growing pressure of archaeological excavations in Italy, England, and France.

Top 10 Neoclassical Masterpiece Paintings 

  1. The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David
  2. The Valpinçon bather by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
  3. The intervention of the Sabine Women by Jacques-Louis David
  4. Great Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
  5. Portrait of Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David
  6. Napoleon I on his imperial throne by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
  7. Dante and Virgil by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
  8. The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David
  9. Venus Induces Helen to Fall in Love with Paris by Angelica Kauffman
  10. The source by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres


    The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David

    Jacques-Louis David painted The Death of Marat in 1793, depicting the assassinated French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat. One of the most well-known photographs from the French Revolution is this one.

    David was a leading French painter, a Montagnard, and a member of the revolutionary General Security Committee. The painting depicts the radical journalist, who was murdered by Charlotte Corday on July 13, 1793, lying dead in his bath.

    The Death of Marat has been compared to Michelangelo's Pietà, with the stretched arm falling in both pieces being a prominent similarity.

    David appreciated Caravaggio's work, particularly the Entombment of Christ, which reflects the passion and light of The Death of Marat. David aimed to imbue the nascent French Republic with the hallowed values historically associated with monarchy and the Catholic Church.

    He depicted Marat, the Revolutionary War martyr, in the style of a Christian martyr, with a gentle, glowing light on his face and body. David, like Christian art before him, experimented with multileveled references to classical art.

    Neoclassicism Vs Romanticism

    Jacques-Louis David Paintings


    The Valpinçon bather by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

     The Valpinçon Bather is a painting from 1808 that has been housed in the Louvre since 1879. It was initially titled Seated Woman and painted while the artist was a student at the French Academy in Rome.

    It was eventually renamed after one of its nineteenth-century owners. Although Ingres had previously painted female nudes, such as his Bathing Woman from 1807, this is largely recognized as his first major work on the subject.

    The model is depicted from behind, as in the previous smaller work, but The Valpinçon Bather avoids the overt sexuality of the prior picture, instead expressing a calm and measured sensuality.

    The woman is completely naked with her face hidden and sits with her back to the edge of a bed. She has a kind of turban on her head that gathers her dark hair. The white sheet that falls towards the ground ends with a precious embroidered border and a fringe. Between the curtain on the left and the woman's legs, we see a tub in which a small jet is pouring water. The contour line of the body is perfect and creates harmonious curves defining an absolute, classic beauty.


    The intervention of the Sabine Women by Jacques-Louis David

    After a period of civil strife that culminated in the Reign of Terror and the Thermidorian Reaction, during which David was imprisoned as a supporter of Robespierre, France was at war with other European nations.

    David couldn't decide whether to show this subject or Homer speaking his lines to his fellow Greeks. As a "sequel" to Poussin's The Rape of the Sabine Ladies, he ultimately decided to paint a canvas depicting the Sabine women interposing themselves to separate the Romans and Sabines.

    After his estranged wife visited him in prison in 1796, he began work on the painting. To honor his wife, he came up with the concept of narrating the story, with the subject of love triumphing over conflict and the protection of children. 

    On the right in the foreground, there is Romulus, who is fighting to stop the attackers, on the ground, there are many frightened children, who are being protected by women or trying to save themselves.

    In the center with a green dress, an elderly woman can be seen, who is undressing to show her breast to Romulus, trying to dissuade him from this senseless conflict.

    The woman tries to appeal to her maternal value, trying to convince Romulus that she was the one who raised him. Love is the core of the work: it was precisely this that allowed the growth of the Roman people and the Sabines, after having created families and new ties with the people of Romulus, no longer want to return to the Sabines.

    The characters in the scene are very many, but in the end, everything happens in the foreground, tracing very closely the works created by Mantegna.


    Great Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres


    "Grande Odalisque," also known as "Une Odalisque or La Grande Odalisque," is an oil painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres depicting an odalisque or concubine, painted in 1814. It's currently on display at the Louvre in Paris.

    Napoleon's sister, Queen Caroline Murat of Naples, commissioned the artwork. Though the actual stance of a reclining figure looking back over her shoulder is directly borrowed from Jacques-Louis David's 1809 Portrait of Madame Récamier, Ingres drew influence from works such as Giorgione's Dresden Venus and Titian's Venus of Urbino.

    A young and charming odalisque lies on a mattress covered with fine sheets, under her body you can see an animal fur and her bust rests on soft cushions and precious fabrics. A heavily decorated curtain falls from the canopy and the body is turned to the back and completely stretched out.

    Her nudity, however, is totally chaste: the most intimate parts are covered from view and only the lower part of a breast can be seen. The young woman's face is turned towards the observer, much of her hair is hidden by a precious turban knotted on her head. At the feet of the young woman is a long pipe.

    When it was initially shown in 1814, this eclectic combination of styles, mixing classical form with Romantic themes, drew scathing criticism. Contemporaries thought it signaled Ingres' departure from Neoclassicism and a shift toward exotic Romanticism.

    Critics saw Ingres as a rebel against the current trend of form and content. A reviewer said the picture had "no bones nor muscle, neither blood, nor vitality, nor relief, indeed nothing that defines imitation" when it was initially presented in the Salon of 1819.

    This backed with the popular belief that Ingres had ignored anatomical realism. Long lines, on the other hand, were preferred by Ingres to communicate curve and sensuality, as well as plenty of even light to tone down the volume.

    Until the mid-1820s, Ingres' work was still being criticized. The figure in Grande Odalisque is said to be portrayed with "two or three vertebrae too many," based on the original critique the artwork got.

    Critics thought the elongations were an error on Ingres' part at the time, but current research has revealed that they were intentional. Ingres' body was designed with an impossible to imitate curvature of the spine and rotation of the pelvis, according on measurements collected on the proportions of real women.

    It also revealed that the odalisque's left arm is shorter than the right. The study found that the figure was five vertebrae longer rather than two or three, and that the extra length influenced the lengths of the pelvis and lower back rather than just the lumbar area.


    Portrait of Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David

    Jacques-Louis David painted a picture of Juliette Récamier, a Parisian socialite, in the height of Neoclassical fashion, sitting on a Directoire style sofa in a simple Empire line dress with virtually bare arms and short hair "à la Titus" in 1800.

    It was started in May 1800, but David may have abandoned it when he discovered that François Gérard had been commissioned to paint a portrait of the same model before him (Gerard's portrait was completed in 1802); on the other hand, many David paintings have the same stark background.

    Ingres used the stance of a reclining figure looking back over her shoulder in his Grande Odalisque in 1814. It is now on display at the Louvre.

    In the center of a large room, Madame Récamier rests on an elegant wooden triclinium. On the left, there is a high iron brazier which is the only piece of furniture in the whole scene and she wears a large tunic that reaches almost to her feet. The dress, soft and with a light fabric, falls to the ground; her right arm is softly and scenically placed over her legs with her hand touching her knee. 


    Napoleon I on his imperial throne by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

    Napoleon is depicted as Emperor, seated on a circular-backed throne with ivory ball-encrusted armrests, in the outfit he wore during his coronation. He wields the sceptre of Charlemagne in his right hand and the hand of justice in his left. A golden laurel wreath, similar to Caesar's, adorns his head.

    Under the Légion d'honneur's magnificent collar, he wears an ermine hood, a gold-embroidered satin tunic, and an ermine-lined purple velvet cloak with gold bees.

    The coronation sword is safely stowed in its scabbard, which is secured in place by a silk scarf. The figure is sitting on a couch, wearing white shoes with gold embroidery. An imperial eagle is depicted on the carpet beneath the throne.


    Dante and Virgil by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

    Dante and Virgil is an 1850 oil on canvas work by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, a French academic painter. The Musée d'Orsay in Paris has it on exhibit.

    The picture represents a scene from Dante's Divine Comedy, which depicts Dante and his companion Virgil on a voyage through Hell. The author and his guide are watching as two tormented souls are entwined in unending conflict in the scene. Capocchio, an alchemist and heretic, is one of the souls.

    Gianni Schicchi, the trickster who had used trickery to steal another man's inheritance, bites him on the neck. Even though he had submitted a piece that he thought would appeal to the judges, it was Bougereau's third and ultimately fruitless attempt to win the coveted Prix de Rome.


    The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David

    The work depicts the Coronation of Napoleon and his wife Giuseppina Beauharnais. Napoleon is depicted in the center of the painting at the moment of his coronation in front of eighty recognizable characters.

    Napoleon orally commissioned the work in September 1804, and David began working on it on December 21, 1805, in the disused chapel of the College de Cluny, near the Sorbonne, which acted as a workshop. In January 1808, he completed the work with the help of his student Georges Rouget.

    The piece was displayed at the Salon annual painting showcase from 7 February to 22 March 1808, and it was presented to the Salon decennial prize competition in 1810.

    The artwork remained in David's possession until 1819, when it was handed to the Royal Museums and kept in reserve until 1837. On King Louis-orders, Philippe's it was then housed in the Sacre Chamber of the museum of the royal Palace of Versailles. The picture was moved from Versailles to the Louvre in 1889.


    Venus Induces Helen to Fall in Love with Paris by Angelica Kauffman

    The scene in the painting is taken from the ancient Greek story of the Trojan War. The Trojan War was started because a man named Paris abducted Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. 

    Pairs was promised by the Greek God Aphrodite that he would be granted the most beautiful woman in the world if he chose her.

    Venus Induces Helen to Fall in Love with Paris, uses the vanishing point technique and can be seen by looking at some of the subjects in the work. Paris and Helen are both looking at the middle of the painting, also the body of the cupid is pointing towards the middle of the art piece.

    Angelica Kauffman's depiction is a great example of a Neo-Classical art because it is based on an Ancient Greek story, as well as incorporating the vanishing point technique.

    Angelica Kauffmann Paintings


    The source by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

    The work was begun in Florence around 1820, but not completed¬†until 1856 in Paris. When Ingres first showed it, he was 76 years old, he had become very famous and held the position of president of the √Čcole des beaux-arts.

    The pose of the female nude represented in this painting can be compared to that of another painting, the Venus Anadiomene of 1848, and is a reinterpretation of the "Venus modesty" as the hand is held in front of the pubis with the intent to cover it from sight. also represented in the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. The model was the young daughter of Ingres' concierge.


    Check out these Famous Artists who have shaped the art world!

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