How a new branch of historical painting emerged

David's painting immortalising his friend, radical revolutionary Marat's murder, finished a few months after the murder occurred.

The French Revolution is arguably one of the most important moments of French history. It all started quite slowly and progressively. When Louis XVI inherited the throne along with his Austrian wife, Marie Antoinette, France was destitute. It had just finished fighting in a war, and the people were hungry. However, instead of immediately fixing the problem, the rulers of the nation, not necessarily Louis, who was rather impressionable, raised the taxes on the poor. Finance Ministers came and went for a while, and everytime one would mention that the poor had no more money, and that instead taxes should be raised for the higherclass, they would be fired. In addition to the taxes, Marie Antoinette, who was still a very frivolous princess in her mind, spent like crazy and enjoyed the finer things in life. Although not very evil, she became the scourge of the entire population, and she was the very symbol of anti-freedom and anti-rights.
It’s no surprise that the financial situation aggravated, and the people of France had just had enough. The bucket spilled over so to speak. Now faced with dramatic conditions, the King decided to reinstate the Estates-General, a sort of grouping of each class (clergy, noble, commoners) who was faced with the task of finding a solution to the depression. Votes would be decided by group, that is, one vote per group instead of one vote per head. It was then that the lowerclass truly realised how powerless they were, for they knew full well the clergy and nobles would always stay together. The Third Estate wanted to have a meeting, but when denied such a meeting without the presence of the other estates, it rushed to a tennis court and held its meeting there, on the 17th of July 1789, while making an oath to always stay together and protect the interests of France and her people. The members of the Third Estate renamed themselves the National Assembly, and it was from there that the rioting and plotting for power and the constant hunger of the people brought on the Reign of Terror, famous for guillotine executions of anyone suspected of being against the current government, or anyone who was simply in the way of a political plot. In the middle of this we find Jacques-Louis David, a painter and friend of Maximilien Robespierre, the main leader usually responsible for the executions. David was the only painter to decide to capture the revolution as it happened, giving us the paintings we commonly see alongside a text about the revolution. His drawings also brought along problems for everyone. When he became involved with politics and voted for the death of the King, his royalist wife divorced him, he was imprisoned at the end of Robespierre’s ruling, and was an enemy to the Royalists, for his paintings in general contained messages alluding to freedom and constitution and anti-monarchy, which the people of France adopted as national symbols of the Revolution.

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