French Painters: Le Brun, David & Poussin

Nicolas Poussin was one of the leading painters of the French Baroque era, Charles Le Brun was a very popular French Baroque painter, and Jacques David had one of the best Neoclassical styles. They were all excellent French painters, and here are some gorgeous, and well detailed artworks by them that I saw in person at the MET.

Le Brun, Everhard Jabach and his Family, 1660

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This art piece was so big, it took up two-thirds of the wall. I was in awe when I saw this work, not only was it large but it had extensive detail. When this work was commissioned, La Brun was a painter for King Louis XIV. This artwork is rather characteristic of Dutch and Flemish art, but also has some characteristics of French art. Everhard Jach is the man sitting in the middle of the work in black. Anna Maria de Groote is in the blue dress near him. They are surrounded by their four children: Everhard the Younger, Hélène. Heinrich, and Anna Maria. The family is surrounded by a variety of material, possibly meant to show that they come from wealth and that they are educated. In the background, through a mirror, is the reflection of the artist himself (this reminds me of Velázquez’s Las Meninas). This probably means that Le Brun was close to the family.

David, The Death of Socrates, 1787


David, The Death of Socrates, 1787

I actually learned about this work in my History of Art II class. This painting is super famous, and very well known by many (just because it’s that popular!) This painting shows the execution of Socrates told by Plato in Phaedo. It’s told that he refused to accept the belief of multiple gods, and he was a bad influence to younger men. As a result, the Athens wanted to kill him. He bravely accepts his fate rather then being sent to exile. In this picture, he surrounded by many of his friends, and some family, and they are all distressed. Even the guard, who is handing him the hemlock poison he has to drink, has his head down. However, Socrates gladly takes the poison and still continues to teach/lecture even he’s moments before his death.

The last artwork is by Poussin, The Abduction (Rape) of the Sabine Women, 1633-34

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Poussin, who is very interested in classical history during his time, has a rather difficult subject matter here. This shows a story from Roman mythology. It happened shortly after the Roman empire came to power. The Romans invited the Sabines to the festival of Neptune Equester (here Neptune, the god of sea, was also worshiped as the god of horses). At this fest, the Romans planned to take the Sabine women, rape them, and create babies. The man at the left of the art piece, who’s the most elevated, is called Romulus. He is signaling the men with his cloak to start seizing the women.

I personally find this subject matter disturbing, but I think that Poussin executed this painting very well.

I also included a work by him called Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man. I wanted to show how similar the colors of both these works are. Poussin uses very bright and rich colors (especially blue and pink) throughout both works, even when the subject matters are so different.

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