The Art Political (part 4)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The 2008 political season grinds on leaving Florida and Michigan in it's wake as the Clinton camp accuses Obama of crushing new primary hopes and Obama tries to deal with race like an adult....and the media has a series of fits annoying enough to make me want to chuck my t.v. in the bin.

So let's forget all of them for a little while and look at some of the art that came out of revolutionary France. One of the very most important political pieces of art from this time was David's Death of Marat (1793).

During this period, the neoclassical style was hot - everyone was doing it. Neoclassicism was simple, classic, realistic, and it's biggest advantage was to communicate a clear, simple ideal. Delacroix's depiction of liberty is a fine example of this.
But getting back to Death of Marat, you can see that the composition is very starkly composed. Marat lies dead in a bathtub which runs parallel with the picture plane, effectively bringing him to us. And who is this fellow? In a word, a martyr.
Marat was stabbed in his bathtub by a woman from a rival revolutionary faction. The elegant way in which David has posed him is likely at odds with his actual death (I imagine there should be a teency bit more blood.) However, the pose recalls many pieta sculptures in which the dead form of Jesus is often draped across his mother's lap. David is effectively creating a new mythology for a new era, and this portrait of a martyr has become so iconic of that that simply googling 'david death' will come up with this picture.
The creation of a new mythology to support one's cause is, I think, the most interesting aspect here because I believe it has become such a common tactic, and art has become a common tool of this - even if it's just a bit of film about a red phone.
Next week, we'll take a little break from politics altogether to look at some art from Lyse Marion.


Diana said...

I never had the grace or opportunity to take an art history class, though I've often regretted it. I feel almost bad, soaking in such great reading and related fact for free from your blog.

Almost. :)

Keep up the great work!

Wonderfully Sew Knit said...

You have a great blog...I'm off to read more of it.

tori said...

Thank you. If you have a particular subject you've been wondering about, let me know and I'll try to cover it :)

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