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In what ways and to what extent is an understanding of historical context important in approaching the works of aJean-Jacques Rousseau and bJacques-Louis David In this essay I will attempt to illustrate how an ahistorical approach to the works of David and Rousseau is possible I will discuss how a historical approach adds to this and as such assess its importance in fully appreciating their work We can approach Davids paintings with a purely formal analysis based on the techniques he uses to create them He painted in the Neo-classical style therefore adopting the style subjects and traditional techniques of Ancient Roman painters The Lictors Returning to Brutus the Bodies of his Sons Illustration Book Colour Plate 41 for example depicts an event from Roman history In this painting he uses the Classical technique of objects and using perspective lines to create the illusion of depth He also uses lighting and vanishing point to highlight the three female figures Furthermore the painting adheres to the Classical traditions of being balanced in so much as the figures and objects are carefully positioned in a balanced way certain shape formations reoccur throughout the warm tonal colours of the three female figures clothing are echoed in other areas We can also compare Davids style with other painting styles such as Romanticism Romanticism was a conflicting style adopted in the same period by painters such as Casper David Friedrich Whilst the Neo-classical style strictly adhered to the traditional conventions of painting Romantics like Friedrich aimed to defy them Furthermore through the depiction of vast and wondrous landscapes such as Friedrichs Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog Illustration Book Colour Plate 60 Romantic artists aimed to evoke a variety of emotions In comparison David painted weighty and important subjects which made intellectually challenging observations about society To this extent we can see how an understanding of historical context may be important in approaching Davids work If
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