Can philosophy and morals be transmitted through a painting? A close reading of ‘The Death of Socrates’
One of the most influential artists of the late 18th century, the French painter Jacques-Louis David was a pre-eminent figure in the Neoclassical movement, which marked a stark shift away from the sensuous Rococo style that had dominated the preceding decades, and towards art inspired by ancient Greece and ancient Rome. His painting ‘The Death of Socrates’ (1787), based on Plato’s account of the execution of Socrates for blasphemy in 399 BC, is widely considered a seminal and enduring Neoclassical work.
This video essay, part of the Understanding Art series from the US filmmaker called The Nerdwriter, breaks down the ‘interplay of historical, personal, political and aesthetic elements’ that make David’s painting not just technically impressive, but a masterwork that conveys deep ethical concerns through visual storytelling.
Director: Evan Puschak