What Angela says is true: it’s hard to believe that we just experienced all of that. The Europe trip was incredible. Right now, we’re all in the midst of our post-trip studies. For me, this has meant that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the French Revolution. Would I have ever thought that I would find the French Revolution interesting? No. But to my surprise, it is.
I remember being in the Louvre in Paris and seeing one of the rooms filled with paintings by Jacques-Louis David. Museum visitors crowded around his works. Great as they are, I look at them through a new lens now that I have learned a bit more about their historical context.
Earlier in his career, David painted in the neo-Classical style for the Royal Academy under King Louis XVI. Feeling jilted about his inability to achieve higher positions in the Academy, he joined the revolutionaries, voted for the king’s execution, and became something of a propaganda minister for the Revolution. In addition to painting at least four great works during those years, he put on festivals involving the torching of symbolic statues, the releasing of doves, and emotional speeches. In the midst of all of the chaos, backstabbing, and guillotining, David was using his incredible artistic ability to twist facts and sway the masses.
I say this because I know how easy it is to walk into someplace like the Louvre and put these artists on pedestals because of their great talent and skill. But based on my research so far, I have found his career to have striking similarities to that of Joseph Goebbels’, the Nazi propaganda minister that we learned about at the WWII bunkers we visited.
All of this is an excellent reminder of the importance of context. It also reminds me to be careful to use my giftings in ways that are founded on goodness, love, and truth. Finally, it’s a good reminder of the need for us to think critically about contemporary events.
Now just as a final note, I’ll say that there may have been some degree of necessity to the idea of revolution at that time in history, and there are ways in which contemporary Western citizens benefit from the events that occurred then, but its legacy is still rather mixed.