Neoclassicism focuses on Greek and Roman dramatic imagery, nude heroic subjects, and realistic visual narrative. I chose Aurora and Cephalus (1811) by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin for this period because he was one of the brightest representatives of this era, and he is deservedly considered the legislator of various arts in Paris and beyond. The medium of a chosen painting is a canvas; given the chosen medium, the form of the subject is three-dimensional composition within two-dimensional medium.
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This artistic choice is common for neoclassicism; however, it does not convey depth and form as well as sculpture does. As a visual piece with a narrative historical content and clearly identifiable figures of Aurora (in ancient Greek mythology, the goddess of the morning dawn) and Cephalus (the Athenian prince) (The State Hermitage Museum, n.d.). The plot tells of the love of the gods for mortal people; the artist pictured the moment when Aurora saw a beautiful young man, Cephalus. Aurora fell in love with Cephalus and then drove the sleeping hunter in a chariot to the heavens. That is, the figures are representational rather than abstract and non-objective.
The emphasis of the color, hue, and light makes the figure of Cephalus the focal point, while toning down the background and other characters help to avoid distraction of the audience with the use of subordination. Cephalus’s pose and mood resemble that of ancient statues at rest. At the same time, the work with its smooth manner of writing, decorativeness, and beautifulness is characterized by the theatrical effect (Ringbom, 1968).
The style of this painting can be characterized by noble forms, which contributed greatly to keeping the balance. Meanwhile, geometrized composition achieved through proportion, balanced shape, and complementary colors in the palette brought unity of parts and stage effects. Interestingly, Neoclassicism arose as a reaction to frivolity and excessive ornamentation of the Baroque and Rococo styles (Ringbom, 1968). In painting, it reflected heroism during the ancient Romans and Greeks time. This era opened up with Louis XV, became more pronounced with the reign of Louis XVI, and went all the way down to the French Revolution.
Ringbom, S. (1968). Guérin, Delacroix and ‘The Liberty’. The Burlington Magazine, 110(782), 270-275. Web.
The State Hermitage Museum. (n.d.). Guérin, Pierre-Narcisse. 1774-1833: Aurora and Cephalus. Web.