Friday, July 13, 2007

Death of Marat

On one of my favorite blogs, alicublog, the topic often comes up of how some people evaluate art only in terms of its political content. That is, they see all art as propaganda (either for their views or againts). The proprietor, Roy, believes, in which I'm in full agreement, that art should be evaluated in terms of its artistic merit. Art can be appreciated regardless of its propaganda value, if there even is any, and whether or not you agree with the view it's trying to push. For example, I think the Jim Fitzpatrick portrait of Che Guevara is both good art and good propaganda, although I find Guevara's politics and methods repellent.

On this day in 1793, "friend of the people" Jean-Paul Marat was murdered while soaking in his bathtub. It was captured in what I believe is one of the greatest combinations of art and propaganda: Jacques-Louis David's The Death of Marat. Again, Marat is no one I would have any sympathy for. He was associated with the Jacobins and the Reign of Terror and compiled death lists of enemies (and supposed enemies) of the revolution. Still, Death is a stunning piece of work. Nothing else David did compares, except perhaps Napoleon Crossing the Alps.

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