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Wartime Farm: ChristmasSunday, 29th March 2015 08:00 - YesterdayIt's Christmas, and our living historians are back in the war, and back on the land, for a very special Wartime Farm. Read more: OU on the BBC: Wartime Farm - Christmas Special
Timewatch: StonehengeSunday, 29th March 2015 22:05 - BBC Four
Thinking Allowed: Global clothing and poverty, fur inheritance in PolandMonday, 30th March 2015 00:15 - BBC Radio 4
A History of Ideas - How do I live a good life?Monday, 30th March 2015 12:04 - BBC Radio 4
The Bottom Line - Corporate scandalAvailable until Saturday, 26th March 2016 14:15How do companies recover from negative press? Evan Davis hears from guests who have broken away from scandal on this... Read more: The Bottom Line - Corporate scandal
Turn your bank holiday into a badged holidayWhat are your plans for the long weekend? DIY? A trip to a windswept beach? Why not take your... Read more: Turn your bank holiday into a badged holiday
Take the photographic memory testCan you capture scenes just by looking at them? Find out with our photographic memory test. Launch now: Take the photographic memory test
Early years team work and leadershipThis unit explores aspects of teamwork and leadership for early years practitioners. Try: Early years team work and leadership now
Succeed with maths – Part 1[BETA] If you feel that maths is a mystery that you want to unravel then this short 8-week course... Try: Succeed with maths – Part 1 now
In this unit we will examine a range of Napoleonic imagery by David, Gros and a number...
In this unit we will examine a range of Napoleonic imagery by David, Gros and a number of other artists, beginning with comparatively simple single-figure portraits and moving on to elaborate narrative compositions such as Jaffa and Eylau. In so doing, we will have three main aims: to develop your skills of visual analysis, to examine the relationship between art and politics and to introduce you to some of the complex issues involved in interpreting works of art.
By the end of your work on this unit you should be able to:
- analyse paintings centred on the human figure in terms of how a work's form and content together produce its meaning;
- explain how and why French painting came to be used and controlled by the Napoleonic regime;
- discuss the problems of interpretation raised by Gros's Napoleonic paintings;
- locate Napoleonic painting within the broad shift from Neoclassicism to Romanticism in French art.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Paintings at the Louvre
- 2 The portrait of Napoleon
- 3 Gros and the Napoleonic propaganda machine
- 4 The Decennial Competition of 1810
- 5 Conclusion
If you visit the Louvre museum in Paris and choose the route leading to the Denon wing, you will find on the first floor two vast galleries, the Daru room and the Mollien room, devoted to late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century French painting. Although they also contain many comparatively small works, notably portraits, these galleries are dominated by colossal pictures depicting historical and mythological subjects. Many of the images that we will be discussing in this unit belong to this genre. At the time, ‘history painting’ (as it is generally known) constituted by far the most prestigious genre of painting for two principal reasons. First, it was considered to be far more demanding than the so-called lower genres (portraiture, landscape, still life, etc.): not only did the history painter have to work out a large-scale composition involving the human figure, but he was also expected to represent nature in its ideal forms rather than merely copying the familiar appearance of things, like artists who practised the lower genres. (The masculine pronoun is deliberate. It was extremely difficult for women to become history painters. Female students were not admitted to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. The core of its tuition was the life class, which involved drawing from the naked (male) model, so women were excluded on grounds of modesty.)
Second, the subject matter of history paintings was considered to be much more significant than that of the lower genres, on account both of the exalted status of the gods and heroes who were depicted in them and of the elevating moral messages that they offered to the viewer. At least, this was the theory; the practice was often rather different, as we will see from considering examples produced during the Napoleonic era. This was increasingly to be the case as the nineteenth century progressed.
This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course