Faces of Europe

Revolution and war

The age of reason was quickly followed by a period of great turmoil, epitomized by the French Revolution of 1789-99 and Napoleon’s military campaigns. Artists across Europe bore witness to these dramatic events, depicting the battles for vanishing kingdoms and recording wars that changed the course of European history.

French artist Eugène Delacroix was born as the ideals of the Enlightenment were giving way to the ideas and styles of Romanticism. Inspired by the Paris uprising of 1830, he painted this emblematic portrayal of the fight for liberty, Le 28 Juillet 1830: la Liberté guidant le peuple.

I have undertaken a modern subject, a barricade, and although I may not have fought for my country, at least I shall have painted for her.

Eugène Delacroix

Events in the Iberian Peninsular and resistance to the armies of Napoleon were recorded by Goya in his painting El 3 de mayo en Madrid, o ''Los fusilamientos''. It depicts the execution of Spanish citizens in reprisal for the previous day’s uprising.

The freedom and opportunity for artists to express themselves in turbulent times has varied greatly in different places and at different times. However, the power of art to influence public opinion has always been recognised, as demonstrated by those who have used art for political ends and attempted to censor art.

One of the biggest battles in 16th century Europe was the battle of Orsha - a conflict between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Grand Duchy of Moscow.

The human costs of the First World War and refugees in flight are recorded in a modernist portrayal by Latvian artist Jēkab Kazaks.