May 7, 2011

Jacques-Louis David's "The Death of Socrates"

On this Day in the History of Art: Socrates died (399BC), Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premieres (1824), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky born (1840), Caspar David Friedrich died (1840), The Group of Seven first exhibit in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1920), “Anthem” published in the UK (1938)Nationality: French
Born-Died: 1748-1825
Creation Date: 1787
Size: 51 × 77.25 in. (129.5 × 196.2 cm)
Media: Oil on canvas
Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York, USA

Today is the 2,410th anniversary of the death of Socrates. This painting is commonly referred to in the US as The Death of Socrates, but I have also seen it written as Socrates at the Moment of Grasping the Hemlock. Due to the latter title's specificity I suspect this was closer to the original French title. This shouldn't be too surprising since many works from history have had changes of title, including some of the most famous works. While vast quantities of writing have been published about this painting, fortunately, it's not too hard to appreciate if you have a basic idea of what happened to Socrates. It is paintings like these that make me love the work of David (pronounced Dah-VEED).

I know why people in the art's industry would claim otherwise, but there is really no good reason why people don't make paintings like this anymore.

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