The artist rose to prominence towards the end of the 18th century and at this time France was embroiled in political instability. Jacques Louis David felt it necessary to align himself closely with different ruling groups at different times in order to protect his own position. The connections that he built up also enabled him to earn some of the most prestigious commissions in France at that time.
This period in French painting also produced some of the country's finest artists, way besides just David himself. Romanticism was a prominent artstic style at this time but most considered this artist to be more of a classical painter. His use of colour schemes much have been influenced by Venetian artists of previous centuries and perhaps first came to his attention during his academic teachings as a young student.
François Boucher was to provide the early training for Jacques-Louis as a painter, though his Rococo style was not ideally suited to a young pupil who was already more interested in following the more fashionable neo-classical route. Far from angered by this, Boucher realised that his friend Joseph-Marie Vien would therefore be a more suitable teacher and so passed his extended relative on to him. He would then attend the Royal Academy in Paris and was now on his way as a painter and draughtsman.
Artist Jacques Louis David fought hard for several years to finally earn the notable award of the Prix de Rome, knowing it would give him the necessary finance and connections to study the finest masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance over several years. As a member of the Neo-classical style, this was ideal for understanding more about the original roots of his work. Rome itself was a hive of antique culture even besides just the paintings and he knew that this was an opportunity not to be missed.
The 17th century artists of Poussin, Caravaggio and the Carracci family first caught his eye as he travelled around Italy on this artistic pilgramage. At a later date he would also discover the High Renaissance contributions of Raphael and these would also leavea a lasting effect upon his work. Whilst considering some work that he encountered to be lacking in movement he still produced endless study sketches of almost every major artwork that he came across and these sketchbooks would become an integral tool when he returned back to France.
The greatest legacy from the career of Jacques Louis David would have to be via his extensive art studio, from where a significant number of famous names appeared of his later years and after his death. His influence ensured that most of these painters followed his own neo-classical approach as well as experimenting with their master's use of the warm colours of the Venetian palette. Antoine-Jean Gros and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres were amongst his most successful pupils.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau was an academically trained artist whose style has been seen by some as lacking in imagination and relying too much on his original teachings. That said, he took a similar path to prominence as Jacques Louis David and much of his work is truly breathtaking. Bouguereau paintings are displayed in full here and offer an interesting constrast in style to David's own oeuvre with mythical themes and delicate touches of the brush.
A true member of the Romanticist movement, having earlier been more classical in a similar vein to Jacques Louis David, was Eugene Delacroix. His notable pieces would lead this art movement and Delacroix paintings offer an alternative route that French artists took during this period. This artist would also become involved in political and military themes, which proved highly inspiring for his expressive approach to art.
Another closely related artist was Theodore Gericault who produced several large paintings that now reside in the Louvre in Paris, most famously with The Raft of the Medusa. You will find that Gericault paintings hold a similar level of movement and drama to other artists featured here and were it not for his life and career being cut short prematurely, perhaps he may even have been considered the finest of all.
Courbet paintings offer yet another intriguing approach to French art during this period. This painter produced some groundbreaking content that shocked the art world at that time, he was a revolutionary artist who stood out as unique from all the others mentioned here. Gustave Courbet was a significant artist who should be treated as perhaps separate from the likes of Jacques Louis David, Eugene Delacroix and Theodore Gericault.