Michael values. David was a not only

Michael values. David was a not only

Michael EdelmanHST 3133/28/2005Caricature PaperJacques-Louis David: Gouvernement Anglois (The English Government)Introduction:As one can expect from the very nature of political and social revolutions, there were some very unhappy people during the French revolution. The question here is why the French citizens of this time so upset were and was their discontent so great that a revolution could be justified? Furthermore, who and what will be the ultimate vehicle to bring the necessary political, social and economic dreams to realization?The French Revolution in began in 1789 and ended in 1799, this was a time in which democrats and republicans overthrew the absolute monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church was forced to make drastic changes (Doyle, 1999). The French Revolution ended an archaic social and political system established in France characterised by a feudal system under the control of a powerful absolute monarchy and the unquestioned power of the Catholic Church (Slevin, 2003).Those unhappy citizens who overthrew the absolute monarchy and the church belonged to a group known the bourgeoisie. This group was defined under the “Popular Movement” was constituted by angry peasants and wage-earners that had come under the influence of the rational ideas of the Enlightenment (Slevin, 2003). The bourgeoisie of this time was justifiably angered by many societal afflictions such as:Unequal taxation between classes (some in the form of labor, known at that time as seigneurial taxes) (Doyle, 1999).

FamineThe irrational concepts of absolutism and powers of the church as a result of Enlightenment thoughtThe power of a privileged clergy and nobilityAs you can see there were many reasons for the discontent of the French bourgeois at this time, not only were they unfairly taxed, but they had very little voice in the government that was allowing many of its citizens to starve to death; something had to be done. The Birth of a Revolution:The theme of the French Revolution was Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and came as a result of Enlightenment rationale. The bourgeoisie of the time believed in the freedom of the individual and wanted to see the actualization of real democracy and laissez-faire economy in France (Slevin, 2003). One man, by the name of Jacques-Louis David was a strong believer in these liberal and humanistic values. David was a not only an artist, but a social reform visionary with the courage to stand up for what he believed in and the ability to bring about a change for all of those suffering under the iniquities of the pre-Revolutionary French Government.An Enlightened Soul:Jacques-Louis David was born in Paris in 1748 and he soon became a leader in the neoclassical movement; later his subjects change and became more modern and political as he passionately embraced the Enlightenment and the French Revolution (Johnson< 1993).

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Beginning in 1789 he actively participated in political life and became a member of the Committee of Public Safety (Johnson, 1993). Later, his dedication to Enlightenment idealism and consequent political allegiance became much more evident when he became a leader in the Popular Movement and voted for the death of Louis XVI in 1793 (Johnson, 1993). David was active in the French Revolution and is sometimes called the chief propagandist for the Revolution (Johnson, 1993).

The influence that David has on the viewers of his artwork was one way in which he gained this title. One his strongest pieces of propaganda during the Revolution was known as Gouvernement Anglois or The English Government.Revolutionary Propaganda:David began painting Gouvernement Anglois in 1793 which depicted the English Government as a demonic figure vomiting on its people. Although the image is quite explicit, David managed to maintain its technical and highly allegorical integrity. The image is arranged with a frightening demonic figure on the left, clad with royal garb spitting excrement in the form of smoke and fire through the mouth of his “derriere” made up by image of the English king.

The king’s face is vomiting flames and smoke directly through the center of the image at a frightened group people attempting to escape the flames that distinctly separate the two parties. The painting is symbolic of the way in which the English Government was separating itself from its people through its monopolization of commerce at that time (Johnson, 1993). The smoke and fire coming from the back of the demon is symbolic of the taxes in which the government uses to ensure this monopoly. There is also a caption at the bottom of the page which describes the scenario. According to the print’s caption the English government is personified by the figure of a Devil skinned alive. Obviously, this image can not be taken literally, but its allegorical suggestion held great significance to the times. The explicit nature of this image does not leave much room for imagination.

Had his past works not been so technically flawless some viewers could mistake the crudeness of this piece as a result of David’s artistic and intellectual inadequacy, this could not be farther from the truth, in fact, many believe David did this on purpose.Purpose:Although it certainly angered many of those who benefit from unjust taxation, this piece was not created to serve the English Government and those alike, but it was created to serve those who are being unfairly persecuted by any absolute government, for example: the bourgeoisie during the French Revolution. Since uneducated peasants and workers constituted the majority of the bourgeoisie, they were most likely not well educated in areas such as the arts. As an educated man, David was well aware of their ignorance when it came to artistic interpretation, so he made the image crude enough for even the simplest of citizens to comprehend (Johnson, 1993).

David wanted to let his people know that they were being overpowered and demoralized, in a sense planting an infuriating seed in their mind in order to fuel the revolution. With his brush, David could foster a sense of insight, resentment and fear, qualities sure to inspire revolution. Now the only question is whether David was successful and justified in his actions at that time?Argument:Gouvernement Anglois by Jacques-Louis David was created more towards the beginning of the French Revolution. This was undoubtedly a piece of pro-revolution propaganda created to deface oppressive absolute ruling governments and religions of the time and inspire fear and action on the behalf of the rising bourgeoisie. What is less certain was the need for such an explicit piece of work, the accuracy of David’s depiction and whether or not David was successful in what he was trying to do. Proof:When taken out of the context of the French Revolution the implications of David’s intentions and methods in liberal politics with regards to progressive morality are more common than you would think, this can be proven through relevant historical examples:Considering the extremely low living standards that existed in the years leading up to the French Revolution, and the total lack of responsible statism on behalf of the French Bureaucracy, it would be ridiculous to say that there was no need for some kind of change to take place. People were starving to death and those who needed the most help were not only being unfairly taxed and labored, but they had no voice in the governments that oppressed them.

A situation such as this is not much different than the concept of slavery. Before the Civil War in America, black slaves had no say in government, were given only that which they needed to survive, and were forced to work with no pay. Looking back on that situation, any rational being with respect for the rights of common man would say that the Civil War was absolutely necessary. These situations require the courage of men like Abraham Lincoln and even Jacque-Louis David to stand up for what they believe in to better the welfare of unfairly persecuted human beings. Furthermore, the need for an image such as this was obligatory to exploit the fact that absolutism, and privileges of clergy and nobility undermine the value of human life and its natural right to life and liberty.

David’s scenario in Gouvernement Anglois depicted the English Government as a frightening devilish beast. Of course to say that those functioning within that class of individuals are literally devils is ludicrous. The point is that allowing the silencing, enslavement and starvation of your constituents is certainly a diabolical act. The methods used by Jacques-Louis David are nearly identical to those used by social reformers known as muckrakers in the United States progressive era. For example, political cartoonist Thomas Nast, known as the “father of political cartoons”, played a key role in the impeachment of the crooked U.S. President Andrew Johnson through his exaggerated depictions (Nast).

Nast sometimes portrayed Johnson wearing a crown and called him “King Andy”, the fact that this situation probably never occurred is irrelevant compared to its relevant symbolism. As you can see, pictorial hyperbole can have a powerful influence on people when based on the truth. Perhaps the nomenclature of the progressive era was a bit tardy in their assessment of who the real father of political cartoons really is, and that Jacques-Louis David is the real father of political cartoons. Though David lacked the publishing credibility that Nast had to back him, it would still be accurate to say that Gouvernement Anglois is an early version of a political cartoon and considering the plight of the pre-Revolutionary Bourgeoisie, is an extremely accurate assessment of the growing animosity between the tax-burdened Bourgeoisie and its absolute governing practices as the Revolution progressed.Lastly this brings us to the question of whether or not Jacque-Louis David was successful in his attempt to both depict an enormous societal problem of his time and inspire his viewers to make moves towards change; the answer would have to be a resounding yes.

His ability to inspire emotion in his viewers is clearly proven when David was arrested twice by the Government and narrowly escaped with his life, while his closest supporters were executed (Johnson 1993). This would be quite the overreaction by the government if his work did not have the tremendous effect that it had on the Revolution. Moreover, the ultimate downfall of the absolute monarchy and the restructuring of the Catholic Church proved success for anyone involved in the Revolution. David succeeded with flying colors.Conclusion:In his years during the French Revolution, Jacques-Louis David was not only an artist, but a social reformer. His ability to inspire proved to be a formidable catalyst for the popular movement and the Enlightenment as a whole.

Gouvernement Anglois can not only be used as an accurate source of the political socio-economic conditions in France at that time, but David’s exploitative tactics are just as effective and relevant today as they were when he used them hundreds of years ago. In light of all his accomplishments, an individual such as Jean-Louise David puts the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” to absolute shame. Works CitedDoyle, William. Origins of the French Revolution, 3rd ed. (1999).

Johnson, D., Jacques-Louis David: Art in Metamorphosis (1993).Nast, Thomas. “King Andy”. Harper’s Weekly, 3 Nov. 1866.

p.696Slevin, Carl “French Revolution” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics. Ed. Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Syracuse Univeristy. 28 March 2005

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