Speaking of Politics

Did you know that art has played a very intriguing role in politics throughout the history?

Take Jacques Louis David, for instance. Here was an artist who was heavily involved in political circles in France in the 1700’s.

According to the BBC video series Simon Schama’s “Power of Art”, his graphic painting changed the political landscape of the time. “Oath of the Horati” from 1985 was a call to arms that sparked the public into the French Revolution.

Another painting entitled “The Death of Marat” in 1793 was propaganda at its best and depicted a murdered villain politician as a saint.

Then there was J.M.W. Turner who painted the reality of hunger and poverty when England was perceived as a model for stability in the 1800’s.

His 1840 “Slave Ship” shed light for the public to see the hidden event of slaves being cruelly thrown overboard for insurance money.


And, Picasso painted a “modern” history painting of “Guernica” in 1937 that retells the story of the German’s bombing an innocent Spanish town. The purpose of this painting was to shock so the public would not be able to forget the bleak history of the Nazi regime.

“Images are worth a thousand words” and paintings can be very powerful tools of persuasion, truth-telling and reminders.

Next time you are at a gallery, look for an artist’s behind-the-scenes agenda. You never know, you may be able to pick up the politics of the time. Not so easy to spot sometimes but a very interesting way to engage with a piece of art, don’t you think?