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David was the virtual art dictator of France for a generation Extending beyond painting his influence determined the course of fashion furniture design and interior decoration and was reflected in the development of moral philosophy His art was a sudden and decisive break with tradition and from this break modern art is dated David studied with Vien and after winning the Prix de Rome which had been refused him four times causing him to attempt suicide by starvation he accompanied Vien to Italy in 1775 His pursuit of the antique nurtured by his time in Rome directed the classical revival in French art He borrowed classical forms and motifs predominantly from sculpture to illustrate a sense of virtue he mistakenly attributed to the ancient Romans Consumed by a desire for perfection and by a passion for the political ideals of the French Revolution David imposed a fierce discipline on the expression of sentiment in his work This inhibition resulted in a distinct coldness and rationalism of approach Davids reputation was made by the Salon of 1784 In that year he produced his first masterwork The Oath of the Horatii Louvre This work and his celebrated Death of Socrates 1787 Metropolitan Mus as well as Lictors Bringing to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons 1789 Louvre were themes appropriate to the political climate of the time They secured for David vast popularity and success David was admitted to the Acadmie royale in 1780 and worked as court painter to the king As a powerful republican David upon being elected to the revolutionary Convention voted for the kings death and for the dissolution of the Acadmie royale both in France and in Rome In his paintings of the Revolutions martyrs especially in his Marat 1793 Brussels his iron control is softened and the tragic portraits are moving and dignified The artist was imprisoned for a time at the end of the Reign
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