Deflecting the Fire of Eighteenth-Century French Battle Painting
The contribution considers why battle painting was out of favour in France in the late eighteenth century before the emergence of the grandes machines of Napoleon’s reign. A visual emphasis on the expression of furious passions and emotions contradicted the idealising beauties of neoclassicism. History painting, rather than battle painting, was promoted as having the potential to be morally improving from within the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. The differing fortunes of the battle painter Jacques Gamelin and the history painter Jacques-Louis David at the time of the French Revolution indicate that, when the newly founded French nation first went to war, the depiction of battlefield emotion did not, as yet, incorporate the changed emotional culture of the modern-day battle scene.