A painter whose political outlook found subtle expression in his subject matter and style, Jacques Louis David (b. 1748) was several times a radical, one who may have found himself the artistic representative at d’Holbach’s table: “David seemed unwilling or incapable of escaping in his art to an ideal world of perfect order without carrying the world of weight and substance with him. As a result, he tried to impose on the forms of the material world itself the rational clarity and order that some might reserve for a utopian dream” (Taylor, 145).
Likewise, a friend of Revolutionaries; a genius that could add drama to the ailing Marat’s bath-side scribbling of last words:
David’s known political tendency as a member of the revolutionary Committee on Public Education highlights the sort of biographical detail that Taylor explains “may contribute to a deeper and more sympathetic response to any one of his paintings” (148). Unless, of course, you’re the descendent (political or otherwise) of a King, Corday or Girondins…
David comes across as a painter who placed moral integrity and political principle ahead of his artistic vision. His own oath was to the revolutionary court, subordinating – or rather, elevating – his art to the service of popular education.