Museum Home Past Exhibitions Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile

February 1–April 24, 2005 at the Getty Center

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Prison Napoleon Portraits Exile Timeline


David and other former revolutionaries were forced into exile after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815. Nearly 70, David found himself in a foreign city, Brussels, banished from the county he had served and stripped of his primary patron, Napoleon.


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What is Flemish art?

In his early years David had devoted himself to drawing and studying ancient Greek and Roman art. He now came full circle, revisiting themes from Greek history and myth and experimenting with an expressive drawing style. A sympathetic group of French exiles in Brussels provided a brisk demand for his services as a portraitist.

David's colors became brighter and richer under the influence of Flemish panting. His themes became more tender, and at times he even dipped into irony. Unlike his early paintings—all heroic action and moral discipline—David's late works are small, intimate, and openly emotional.

Despite these new directions, David also labored on a version of the Coronation during his exile. He never abandoned his attachment to Napoleon, or at least to the grandeur of empire.

Telemachus and Eucharis / David

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Cupid / David