Psyche Abandoned 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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Psyche Abandoned is a 1795 artwork by Jacques Louis David, a year in which he was highly productive and produced some of his finest portrait paintings.

This charming portrait features relatively little detail, and just focuses the eye on Psyche herself. One can immediately see the pain and sadness in her eyes, which have been slightly reddened by the artist in order to underline her emotional state. She sits directly in front of us so that we can best connect with her, whilst behind her is a lake or grassy area which leads up to some hills. The sky looks angry and turbulent and takes up half of the background, at least. Psyche herself wears a simple white headband to keep her hair in place amidst this open environment, but otherwise is entirely naked. This adds to her sense of vulnerability and immediately earns her the viewer's sympathy. Jacques Louis David would normally prefer to produce portraits with great displays of traditional clothing because, in part, it allowed him to display his supreme technical knowledge of drapery, something he could recreate in immense realism.

The simplicity of the content found here, without any of the weapons, clothing or furniture of some of his other Greek-themed artworks, will remind some of the work of French Academic artist, William-Adolphe Bouguereau. This painter had been trained through the traditional academic institutions of France and would continue that style into his own career, even though it was starting to lose out in terms of popularity to more expressive approaches. In today's world there is room for both of these approaches, and a respect from different quarters for each. The same can also be said for the Neo-classical approach of David, which would impress some and be rejected as unimaginative by others. Similar paintings to Psyche Abandoned from Bouguereau, where content was stripped back to a truly simple approach would be the likes of The Shepherdess, The Nut Gatherers and Young Worker.

It is fair to say that whilst Psyche Abandoned is a truly charming portrait, it is not one of the most famous paintings to have come from Jacques Louis David's career. Instead, one would be better looking at the likes of The Death of Marat, Napoleon Crossing the Alps and The Oath of Horatii for examples of where the artist reached his true pinnacle. They are also the types of items that are used today for young students to learn from, due to the high level of technical qualities found within them. Many still, to this day, study the hanging artworks in institutions such as the Louvre for help in their own personal development. David himself retains a strong reputation within the arts and compares well to other notable French artists from around this period, such as Eugene Delacroix, Theodore Gericault and Francois Boucher. These artists would then help bring about the later work of the Impressionists, and from that came much of the modern art that we all enjoy today.