In the eighteenth century there were many revolutions that took place around the world. These revolutions were changing the world. People were fed up with kings and regimes that gave the people no say in how they were governed. The first of these occurred in the New World which would eventually be known as the United States of America. Inspired by this revolution the French would follow suit. A lesser known and less successful revolution, known as the Batavian Revolution, took place in what is now Holland that saw the end of the Dutch Republic. The three pieces that have been chosen show scenes from these revolutions. In fact a lot of the art from this time shows various depictions of these wars. People often look to what is happening around them for inspiration and when it is war, then depictions of war is what you get. The first piece is:
The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec December 31, 1775 by John Trumbull (1786) America
This painting depicts one of the early battles of the Revolutionary War. The artist, John Trumbull, was a soldier in the war so he witnessed many of the horrors of war firsthand. The fact that he was a revolutionary shows through in this painting particularly by his depiction of the death of the general at the center of the painting as almost a martyr. I like how this painting is a callback to ancient mythology where the general is a god or hero of legend that has just died. The general’s lifeless body is being mourned by the ones holding him up. I particularly like how the men in the foreground are almost in shock that this great man could be dead. It looks like they are screaming “NOOOOO!!!”. This painting captures the horror of war very nicely. Next is:
Tennis Court Oath by Jacques-Louis David (1791) France
This drawing by neoclassical painter, Jacques-Louis David, depicts the famous Tennis Court Oath that took place in the opening days of the French Revolution. Like Trumbull, David was an active participant in the revolution and witnessed firsthand many of the important moments of the revolution. He drew on these firsthand account during this period to inspire him in his art. This drawing is also a callback to ancient Rome. It reminds me of Raphael’s School of Athens where there are all of these people standing in a room the attention is drawn to the middle of the piece to the most important person. In this case it the man leading the oath while right below him are members of the revolution discussing the balance of church and state in the government that they want to set up. Looking at this drawing I can’t help but think of the musical, Les Miserables. It looks like this is a photograph of the musical midsong. I think what I like most about this piece is the hope and energy that is shown through in the people drawn. You can tell that they really believe in their cause and that they think that they will win. The last piece is:
General Daendels Taking Leave of Lieutenant-Colonel Krayenhoff by Adriaan de Lelie (1795) Amsterdam
This painting depicts Lt. Cl. Krayenhoff on his way to dissolve the Amsterdam Council during the Batavian Revolution. de Lelie was not an active participant in this revolution but, he was still moved to depict this important moment in the Batavian Revolution. This is my l east favorite of the three works chosen here because I find it to be the most plain. It is just a simple scene of a winter day where some soldiers are getting ready to go do their duty. The art itself is technically good but, so is the artwork that hangs in motel rooms. There is nothing here that jumps out at me. I tried to find more history about the painting because I thought that maybe I was missing something but could not find anything that changed my opinion of the work. This painting is just a depiction of the mundane parts of war that happen before the fighting actually happens.
People can be inspired by anything. Some artists look to nature. Some look to the past. The artists shown here and their works were inspired by the revolutions that were happening around them. Some were active participants while others watched from afar but, all were affected by the war that they were witnessing.
Yale University Art Gallery. The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec December 31, 1775. http://ecatalogue.art.yale.edu/detail.htm?objectId=57
Encyclopedia Britannica. John Trumbull (American Painter) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/607212/John-Trumbull
Jacques-Louis David, The Complete Works. http://www.jacqueslouisdavid.org/
Encyclopedia Britannica. Jacques-Louis David (French Painter). http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/152567/Jacques-Louis-David
Rijks Museum. Adriaan de Lelie. https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/explore-the-collection/overview/adriaan-de-lelie
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Adriaan de Lelie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adriaan_de_Lelie