French Paintings of Napoleonic Wars

4 April 2015
Compares glories of war portrayed in Jean-Antoine Gros’ The Battle of Aboukir & Theodore Gericault’s “Portrait of an Officer of the Chasseurs.”

The great French novelist, and occasional art critic, Stendhal was engaged in praising a particular painter when he wrote that though I have seen two or three thousand painted battle scenes — I have seen two or three real ones. During the Napoleonic period the wars that were waged by France were such a major part of the lives of members of all classes that it is not surprising to find many paintings of war. As Stendhal’s only slightly exaggerated remark shows, such paintings were staples of contemporary art. The history of the paintings of military subjects embodies the great problem of the age in France and, to a lesser degree, throughout Europe. After the French Revolution, which heralded the supposed triumph of the common man, the rise of a true common man, Napoleon, to the status of conqueror of most of Europe and then self-declared Emperor of the.

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