In 1817, the young French sculptor Pierre-Jean David d’Angers (1788–1856) caused a stir at the Paris Salon with his monument to a seventeenth-century French general. Its energetic composition and depiction of the hero in historical costume challenged neoclassical norms and helped to usher in the age of Romanticism. Lauded by Victor Hugo as the Michelangelo of Paris, David became one of the most important sculptors of the nineteenth century. An ardent Republican and political dissident, experimental writer, and confidant to innumerable artists and intellectuals (from Balzac and Paganini to Goethe and Delacroix), he was both celebrated and controversial during his lifetime. Although today he is little known, David produced some of the most iconic portraits and ambitious public monuments of the Romantic era. This exhibition introducing the work of David reveals the ways in which he sought to adapt the notion of a monument to the new cultural and political landscape of modernity.
Portrait of David d’Angers, ca. 1845. Photogravure after a daguerreotype from David d’Angers, Les Tragiques grecs: 100 dessins par David d’Angers — text par Henry Jouin (Paris: Plon-Nourrit et Cie, 1903)