Mini Biography: Jacques-Louis David

Birth: Aug. 30, 1748
Death: Dec. 29, 1825
Nationality: French
Movement: Neoclassical
Jacques Louis David was born in 1748 into a wealthy family and, after his father was killed in a duel, he was raised by uncles. A fencing accident left David not only disfigured but also resulted in difficulties eating and speaking which greatly hampered him as an adult. Trained as a painter at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture he spent 5-6 years in Rome where he was greatly influenced by the work of Caravaggio. Upon David’s return to Paris in 1780 he became a member of the Royal Academy and during that decade he married, exhibited in the Salon, ran an influential teaching studio, and completed several masterworks. He became more immersed in politics though, and despite a sound relationship with the king and inclusion in the prevailing social and political order of the time, David voted for the execution of King Louis XVI at the National Convention. The deaths of the King, revolutionaries Marat and Robespierre, and an untold number of others as well as his own imprisonment only briefly cooled his ardor for politics however. He was soon swept up in worship for Napoleon which ultimately led to his exile from France in 1814. David lived in Brussels until his death and was buried there as the French government would not allow him to be buried in French soil.
David painted many notable pieces of work throughout his career the following are just from the years around the French Revolution: Tennis Court Oath (1791), The Death of Marat (1793), and Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass (1801) which is the header image and pictured below in full.
David, Jacques-Louis. Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1802), Palace of Versallies, France.


To read more about Jacques-Louis David or to see more of his work visit:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
National Gallery of Art



ational Gallery of Art