Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Neoclassicism (pt. 4)

Art did something after the French Revolution that it has continually done ever since and, actually, probably always has done.  After the Revolution, art became about propaganda.  Art went simple with direct messages (opposite of Rococo).  Post-Revolutionary art would eventually of course turn into Neoclassicism, but the immediate response, which we must look at first, was a shift from the carefree Rococo style of praising the aristocracy to a medium by which the revolutionary ideals of France's own current events could be spread.  Now, just so we're sure, propaganda is information or ideas purposely spread to influence public opinion.  Let's be clear.  Propaganda is always one-sided.  We are about to look at a series of paintings that fit well under the category of propaganda art.  These are not historical paintings, although they are of historical events.  The actual historical events they purport to describe happened in fact very differently.  We cannot trust art as a medium for truth; and I know this is a rather weighty concept that should be (and will be) treated more in the future, but it needs to be brought up now.  Naturally we are more discerning when judging facts from propaganda, but it never ceases to surprise me that historical articles—like, say internet articles—will post a painting of the event alongside the text, as if it were a snapshot.  Paintings, while certainly informative in their own way, should never be taken as the full and accurate picture.  Paintings—especially these paintings we're starting on now—require further historical insight and investigation; however, since I am writing about art history, not history, I will focus more on the paintings.

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