The three painting I will discuss in this essay are Memories of a Civil War painted by Earnest Meissonier in 1849, Third of May 1808 painted by Francisco de Goya in 1814, and Liberty Leading the People painted by Eugene Delacroix in 1830. Even though all three painting are done in different styles the messages remain the same. All three paintings depict the brutalities of war.
Francisco de Goya, began is artistic career in 1760 when he was just 14 years old. He was trained by Jose Luzan, a lesser known painter, in the Rococo style of painting. Early in his career Goya worked as a court painter for King Charles III. It was during this time that Goya painted tapestry cartoons, “that revolutionalized the tapestry industry.” (Goya, 2007). It was also during this time that he painted some of his most beautiful portraits of friends, family, court members, and nobility.Order now
In the winter of 1792, Goya contracted an illness that left him totally deaf. It was after this illness that “an air of pessimism entered his work.” (Goya, 2007). It was during this time that Goya witnessed, first hand, the battles between the Napoleon’s invading armies and the Spanish street fighters. It was these scenes that promoted him to paint the Second of May, 1808 and Third of May, 1808.
In the painting Third of May, 1808, Goya depicts an unarmed Spanish citizen’s execution at the hands of Napoleon’s army. This painting shows the man’s inevitable fate by the mass of bloody bodies off to his left, while other citizens await their turn in front of the firing squad. The painting is shrouded in darkness, except for the man, illuminated by the light of his inner peace. Although he knows that he is going to die, he doesn’t try to flee. He stands in a pose reminiscent of Jesus on the crucifix. However, by shrouding the church in the corner in darkness, Goya symbolizes there will be no salvation for this man.
Eugene Delacroix’s painting career began in 1815 when he began apprenticing under Peirre Narcisse Guerinithe. Although he was trained in the Neo-classical style of art, he was soon influenced by the colorful and rich styles of Romanticism. Many of his early paintings expressed sympathy for the Greeks during their war with the Turks. In his painting Massacre at Chios, he depicted the suffering of the wounded and dying Greeks being slaughtered by the Greeks.
Delacroix’s most famous and influential painting is Liberty Leading the People. “He was inspired by contemporary events to invoke the romantic image of the spirit of liberty.” (Delacroix, 2001). He painted this painting to represents of July 1830. He depicted Liberty as a woman of almost goddess nature. She is standing on a pedestal made of men’s corpses, leading the men into war waving the Flag. Most of the painting is done in dark colors with Liberty being highlighted in the center of the painting.
Ernest Meissonier was also influenced by the wars going on around him. He began his artistic career at a young age at Leon Cognient’s art studio. His early art work was in Religious painting, which he did not do well in. He then turned to the French-classical style of painting, in which he excelled. In his later life Meissonier became part of Napoleon’s Imperial Staff. He accompanied him during the campaign in Italy, and was there at the beginning of the war. It was these first hand experiences of war that prompted him to paint Memories of a Civil War.
In Memories of a Civil War, Meissonier depicts the reality of men strewn across an empty barricade. You can not tell which side of the war the men we fighting on, which is the point of the painting. Meissonier’s view was that neither side of the war could really win when fighting countryman against countryman. Even the French Flag is depicted as torn and bloody, only being seen as the raggedy clothing of the dead men.