Artist. An influential painter in the French Neoclassical style, he is considered to be the preeminent painter of the era. Born into a wealthy family, around the age of nine his father was killed in a duel and his mother left him in the care of his affluent uncles. He received his education at the College des Quatre-Nations, University of Paris, but did not excel. He desired to become a painter and received instruction from French artist Francois Boucher and later from Joseph-Marie Vien. at the Royal Academy in the Louvre, Paris, France. His early work while at the Royal Academy include "Minerva Fighting Mars" in 1771, "Diana and Apollo Killing Niobe's Children" in 1772, and "The Death of Seneca" in 1773 as annual entries for the coveted Prix de Rome. In 1774 he was finally awarded the Prix de Rome for his "Erasistratus Discovering the Cause of Antiochus' Disease," and he went to Italy and studied at the French Academy at Rome, the Palazzo Mancini in the Via del Corso. In July of 1780 he returned to Paris but two years later he returned to Rome and painted his famous "Oath of the Horatii" in 1784. Other paintings followed, including "The Death of Socrates" in 1787, "Paris and Helen" in 1788, and "The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons" in 1789. During this time, his style of history painting marked a change in taste, departing from the very detailed Rococo style that was prevalent in Paris since the early 18th century. At the onset of the French Revolution in 1789, he became an active supporter and befriended Maximilien Robespierre , a lawyer and politician, who was one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, along with Jean-Paul Marat, a radical journalist. In September of 1792 he was elected as a deputy to the National Convention that founded the French First Republic and served as a member of the Committee of General Security that was responsible for the execution of King Louis XVI in January of 1793, and Marie Antoinette the following October. In July of 1793 Marat was assassinated by Charlotte Corday with a knife while bathing. After witnessing the murder scene, he then painted "The Death of Marat" of 1793 and it became the leading image of the Reign of Terror. When Robespierre was arrested and executed in July of 1794, he was also arrested and imprisoned from August through December of 1794 and again from May until August of 1795. In 1799 he painted "The Intervention of the Sabine Women" that caught the attention of Napoleon Bonaparte, whom he admired, and following Napoleon's successful takeover of the French government in November of 1799, he commissioned David to commemorate his crossing of the Alps with "Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass" of 1801. This was followed by "The Coronation of Napoleon" from 1805 to 1807 and "The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries" in 1812. Following Napoleon's final military defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1814 and the ascension of King Louis XVIII to the French throne the following year, he was granted amnesty and went into self-exile in Brussels, United Netherlands, which is now Belgium, rather than take a position offered to him as the court painter. There, he continued to train artists like François-Joseph Navez and Ignace Brice and produce paintings, including "Cupid and Psyche" in 1817, "The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis" in 1818, "The Anger of Achilles" in 1825, and "Mars Being Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces" from 1822 to 1824, his final masterpiece. He died after being struck by a carriage at the age of 77. Because he was considered a revolutionary in that he voted to execute the deposed King Louis XVI and was loyal to Napoleon, his body minus his heart was denied burial in France and was interred in Brussels Cemetery but his heart was placed in a tomb at Paris's Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
Gravesite Details Having been exiled from France as a revolutionary, his dead body was denied burial. Only his heart is buried within this tomb.