Quotes In Art

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Paintings 'Crossing the Alps' in 1799: Napoleon and Suvorov

During Napoleonic wars at the end of 18th century fighting took place first in Italy and than in Austria.

Both French army under Napoleon and Russian army under Suvorov crossed Alps.
Both events were represented in paintings.
‘Napoleon crossing the Alps’ was painted by 1801 by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

‘March of Suvorov through the Alps’ was painted in 1899 by Vasily Surikov (1848-1916) most probably to challenge famous painting by Jacques-Louis David.

Interestingly enough on both paintings leaders are on horses, but there are much more differences:
a) Napoleon is alone, he is like a semi-god, people, if visible, are like ants.
Suvorov is just part of a huge human mass.

b) The Alps for Napoleon are just hills,
For Suvorov the Alps are enormously difficult.
c) Napoleon is seen as if on a parade, enjoying life,
Suvorov shares hardship.

These differences may be results of different

a) world views about strong leader or mass movement;
b) just adjustments to the viewer - David painting was commission by Napoleon, while Surikov painted for exhibition for mass viewer, and included human mass into painting;
c) or just total culture shift within nearly hundred years dividing these paintings from Romanticism towards Realism

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