Empire Art

10 artworks, 3 artists
Empire (fr. empire — imperial) is a direction in design, architecture, arts and crafts, painting, which continues the neoclassical tradition. The style arose in France at the court of Napoleon I, it developed actively between 1800 and 1815 and it remained popular until the end of the 1820s. It has been reigning throughout most of Europe and the USA. The Empire was preceded by a more strict and minimalist form of neoclassicism, the Directoire style.

The reign of Napoleon I and his desire to establish his unlimited imperial power entailed the desire to demonstrate aggressive wealth, excessive theatricality, Neo-Romanesque style with classical forms and silhouettes. The ostentatious pomp of the Empire style was developed and implemented by two designers and architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine. In their designs, they were largely guided by the architectural forms of the Roman Empire, which was further inspired by the great interest in the finds during excavations in Pompeii and Herculaneum. They carried out a complete reconstruction of the interiors of the Louvre, the Tuileries Palace and a number of imperial residences, as well as designed the Arc de Triomphe Carousel.

The empire was replete with military attributes, as well as decorative elements reminiscent of Napoleon’s military victories, in particular, the Egyptian campaigns. Laurel wreaths, banners, stars, warriors, sphinxes, lions, swans were combined with the strict thoroughness of direct and orthogonal forms and the vivid luxury of Imperial Rome.

In their paintings, the court artists used the warlike victorious themes of the Empire style and praised the emperor’s personality by creating the image of the majestic impeccability and invincibility of Napoleon I. One of them was Jacques-Louis David, who became the first portrait painter of the Consul Bonaparte. Later, he created the grandiose painting “The Coronation of Napoleon” (1807) which propagandized the inviolability of imperial power. François Gérard, a pupil of David and the favourite painter of the Empress Josephine, gained great popularity at court. His portraits won the hearts of not only the French aristocracy, but also many of the royal courts of Europe, who offered him numerous commissions. Gérard also painted battle scenes, including those on a popular subject of the Battle of Austerlitz.

At the peak of its popularity, the Empire style has become an international trend in design and architecture, just as the English Regency style, the American Federal style and the German Biedermeier style. After Napoleon left the political scene, the style continued to be popular for many decades. In France, a revival of interest in the empire style occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century and much later in the 1980s.

Famous empire style paintings:
“Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte” by Anne Louis Girodet (1802)
“Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, (1806)
The Coronation of Napoleon” by Jacques-Louis David, (1807)
Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau” by Antoine-Jean Gros, (1808)

Empire style artists:
Jacques-Louis David, François Gérard, Antoine-Jean-GrosAnne Louis Girodet, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.