Patroclus Jacques Louis David Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Patroclus is a simple painting completed by Neo-classicist painter Jacques Louis David in 1780. It can now be found in the collection of the Musée Thomas Henry in Cherbourg, France.

This painting can be considered a study, of sorts, in that there is no facial detail, nor anything else within the composition other than the reclining man whose back is turned to us. We see an incredible physique which allows the artist to work on his technical ability. He also carefully angles the light in order to show off every element of this man's figure. Such detailed work was essential in order for an artist to practice and perfect their understanding of the human body, though much of this development would have been achieved initially as a draughtsman, prior to work with oils. David did himself complete many drawings throughout his career in preparation for work such as this, but here he takes it to the next level and completes a genuine oil painting which can be presented and sold as such.

One can perhaps compare this piece to Hector, from just a year or two earlier. Both focus on the male body, with any use of clothing which was a separate skill to master. In recent years there has been a growing interest in the techniques of the great masters and so paintings such as this could potentially be ordered as prints, where followers of the Neo-classical movement could study in detail the way in which David put together his depictions of the human body. The accuracy of work on the leg and back muscles is to be admired and will help many looking to sketch accurate depictions themselves. One would need a fairly large reproduction, though, in order to make out such detail, alternatively one can head to the Musée Thomas Henry in Cherbourg, France to see the original in person.

Besides the work of Neo-classical artist, Jacques Louis David, there is much to see from a variety of other French artists from around this period. For example, Nicolas Poussin, who gave us classic paintings such as The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus, The Miracle of Saint Francis Xavier and Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice, was a part of the Baroque movement and was similarly skilled in portraiture and history painting. His oeuvre was actually more considerable in size than David's by the end of his career and he seemed more able to avoid the political distractions of his colleague. It may have been that the turbulence found within the country at the time would actually help to inspire these creative individuals and help to draw in one of the nation's best periods of painting and sculpture.

Patroclus in Detail Jacques Louis David