"Napoleon Crossing the Alps" by Jacques-Louis David
Great art is timeless, and speaks to us across time, culture, and space. Yet great works come from real people living real lives—whether their work was made 5 minutes or 500 years ago. In this series, popular Smithsonian Associates speaker Paul Glenshaw looks at great works of art in their historical context. He delves into the time of the artist, explores the present they inhabited, and what shaped their vision and creations.
From 1789 until 1793, Jacques-Louis David was a leading figure both in French art and the most radical factions of the revolution. A fervent anti-royalist, his Death of Marat became an emblem of the violent and turbulent time. He was even jailed and faced possible execution. How then did he become the ardent court painter to Napoleon, the first emperor of France?
To answer, Glenshaw looks at three of David’s iconic paintings: Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801), The Coronation of Napoleon (1807), and The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries (1812). He explores the paths taken by David and Napoleon as they each rise to prominence during the revolution, and then come together to establish Napoleon’s image for the world.
Glenshaw is an artist, educator, author, and filmmaker with more than 30 years’ experience working across disciplines in the arts, history, and sciences. He teaches drawing for Smithsonian Associates and studied painting at Washington University in St. Louis.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
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