In opposition to the frivolous sensuality of Rococo painters like Jean-Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher, the Neoclassicists looked back to the French painter Nicolas Poussin for their inspiration.
The Neoclassicists, such as Jacques-Louis David, preferred the well-delineated form—clear drawing and modeling.Drawing was considered more important than painting. The Neoclassical surface had to look perfectly smooth—no evidence of brush-strokes should be discernible to the naked eye.
France was on the brink of its first revolution in 1789, and the Neoclassicists wanted to express a rationality and seriousness that was fitting for their times. Artists like David supported the rebels through an art that asked for clear-headed thinking, self-sacrifice to the State (as in Oath of the Horatii) and an austerity reminiscent of Republican Rome.
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