Anger of Achilles Painting

12 December 2016

On my mission to find a painting that either caught my eye or would stop me dead in my tracks, I discovered “The Anger of Achilles. ” This oil painting seemed to call me hither to take a closer look. As I walked closer, the painting became more clear and vivid. It was as if Jacques-Louis David was oil painting in high definition. This is a stunningly clear oil painting. So clear, it resembles a modern day photograph. The expression on the faces of each character in this painting drew me in even more. I wanted to know more: Why? Who? What was about to happen?

At first glance, it seemed as though the woman in the background, Clytemnestra the mother, is being disturbed. King Agamemnon, the man portrayed in the foreground, appears to be directing the soldier, Achilles, as he is about to strike. After reading the history behind the painting, I better understand the expressions shown and see how they enhance the story that David is portraying. According to Greek Mythology, Achilles was supposed to be made invincible by dipping him in the river Styx, but forgot to wet the heel she held him by, leaving him vulnerable, so he could be killed by a blow to that heel.

Thus the term “Achilles heel” was originated. David was very successful in showing the anguished Clytemnestra. It appeared she was at the brink of tears; or had been crying. It also appears as though she was deeply saddened by her daughter, Iphigenia’s situation. David is recognized as one of the most influential French painters in the neoclassical era. He participated in the French Revolution and taught several pupils in the early 19th century. In June 1825, David embarked upon improving the 1819 version of his “Anger of Achilles. ” David told his friends, “This painting is what is killing me. ” In October of that same year, he died.

This particular painting is portraying deep anger, anguish, fear, and authority. I believe he wanted to show the anger and disappointment of Achilles; all the while, showing the anguish of her mother Clytemnestra, as she faces a great loss. Meanwhile, her father Agamemnon, is showing full confidence in his authority to control the situation. The light centers on Iphigenia, the daughter, as the main subject in the painting. Your eyes move immediately to her mother Clytemnestra, then to Achilles, and lastly to the father; in a counterclockwise motion. All of the characters are sized to resemble a photograph or life-like proportion.

There appears to be a lot of motion in the portrait. David shows maximum movement, by the use of lines in curved and diagonal strokes. The colors are used to determine the direction your eyes move across the picture. Iphigenia’s pale white shirt is used as the central focal point. Clytemnestra also has on white, but it is a less vibrant hue. The bare back of Achilles in a nude tone, grasps the light in the foreground. Lastly, the red robe worn by Agamemnon catches your eye as an authority figure. The warm colors of red, yellow or gold are in abundance, with a touch of cool blue on Achilles robe.

This is definitely a representation painting. The spacing of each character makes them look three-dimensional instead of flat or two-dimensional. A vanishing point is the prospective use in this painting. The purpose of the oil painting is to show social status or royal protocol. Achilles is painted as a mighty solider; a man of strength about to strike. His purpose is to avenge Iphigenia’s honor. The authority shown on King Agamemnon, father of Iphigenia, is emphasized by the diagonal depiction of his arm pointing downward, but toward Achilles. The direction of the arm pointing downward portrays the direction his authority is directed.

This work reveals an ageless story of love that will never be; the loss felt by Clytemnestra for the sacrificing of her daughter. Also, Achilles’ loss of his love by deceit from Iphigenia’s father Agamemnon. In Greek mythology, things are never as it seems. The promise to Achilles to have Iphigenia’s hand in marriage was not as it seemed either. This work of art is such a vivid and amazingly clear oil painting. I found myself unable to look away. It captured my attention first by the amazing colors created by David. Secondly, I was drawn to the facial expression on the faces of Iphigenia and Clytemnestra.

I instantly wanted to know the story behind the portrait. This work of art simulated me on a personal level. A mother, who appears deeply hurt, sustained my attention. After taking in the entire subject matter, I remembered the stern authority illustrated in Agamemnon’s expression and body language. It became a personal experience of how a father ruled over the family decisions. I learned the family dynamic continues to be illustrated, as it is in a biblical sense, by indicating the father is always the head of the family. Clytemnestra does not agree with the situation, but submits to her husband’s final decision.

In conclusion, this famous oil painting by Jacques-Louis David is based on Greek mythology but appears to be a situation related to real life. The situation portrayed can be understood by most parents and children. This painting has stood the test of time, because the story can be related to many generations. The depiction of each character is clear and concise. It is as clear as a photograph. It allows all the details of the story to come to life; as the artist intended to portray. I will remember the experience of pure emotion in a two-dimensional painting, created to look so three-dimensional or life-like.

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Anger of Achilles Painting. (2016, Dec 26). Retrieved August 7, 2020, from https://newyorkessays.com/essay-anger-of-achilles-painting/
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