Even though Neoclassical artists employed "classical" models they could and often did show 18th century people in contemporary clothing and settings. Gilbert Stuart's Lansdowne Portrait of George Washington, 1796 (below) is a portrait that pays homage to the ancient Greco-Roman sculptural tradition by giving the president a pose and oratorical gesture common in sculpture of the Roman Republic (oratory refers to public speaking). Like Aulus Metellus, a Roman elected official, Washington's gesture is intended to emphasize his personal integrity and nobility of character and also to represent the fact that he leads by persuasion, not force. He is presented as the ideal leader of a republic. 18th century American (and European) viewers recognized the Roman style stone columns behind the president and the fact that the leg of the table next to him is carved to resemble a fasces,(bundle of rods bound together that represented Roman unity and magisterial authority). Above the fasces are Roman eagles. Both eagles and fasces were adopted as symbols of the United States government.
How Neoclassical art got its name
Neoclassicism emphasized rationality and the resurgence of tradition. Neoclassical artists incorporated classical styles and subjects, including columns, pediments, friezes, and other ornamental schemes in their work. They were inspired by the work of Homer and Plutarch and John Flaxmann�s illustrations for the Illiad and Odyssey. Other classic models included Virgil, Raphael, and Poussin among others. Neoclassical painters took extra care to depict the costumes, settings, and details of classical subject matter with as much accuracy as possible. Much of the subject matter was derived from classical history and mythology. The movement emphasized line quality over color, light, and atmosphere. The height of Neoclassicism was displayed in the paintings of Jacques-Louis David and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
What is Neoclassic Art? | Wall Spin, The Zatista Blog
One of the earliest Neoclassicists and one of the foremost painters of his generation in Italy was Batoni. His style blends Rococo with Neoclassical elements, and his work includes classical subject pieces as well as portraits in contemporary dress, the sitter posing with antique statues and urns and sometimes amid ruins. The painter Domenico Corvi was influenced by both Batoni and Mengs and was important as the teacher of three of the leading Neoclassicists of the next generation: Giuseppe Cades, Gaspare Landi, and Vincenzo Camuccini. These artists worked mostly in Rome, the first two making reputations as portraitists, Landi especially being noted for good contemporary groups.
Rome was indeed the city where the principal Italian painters of this period were most active. One such was Felice Giani, whose many decorations include Napoleonic palaces there and elsewhere in Italy (especially Faenza) and in France.
Important painters outside Rome include Andrea Appiani the Elder in Milan, who became Napoleon's official painter and executed some of the best frescoes in northern Italy. He was also a fine portraitist. One of his pupils was Giuseppe Bossi. Another leading Lombard painter was Giovanni Battista dell'Era, whose encaustic paintings were bought by Catherine the Great and others. Other good examples of Neoclassical decorative schemes outside Rome are in Florence (Pitti Palace) by the Florentine Luigi Sabatelli and by Pietro Benvenuti, who was born at Arezzo, and in Venice (Palazzo Reale) by Giuseppe Borsato, who was born in that city and was both painter and architect. Another painter of the time, though only given to a mildly Neoclassical style, was Domenico Pellegrini, born near Bassano, who traveled widely. The principal Neoclassicists in the south were the Sicilians Giuseppe Velasco, who did important frescoes in palaces in Palermo, and Giuseppe Errante.
The main Danish painter who produced original Neoclassical works was Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard. Other Danish painters include Abildgaard's and David's pupil Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg. David was very influential in Brussels, where he retired late in life. The paintings of his Belgian pupil François-Joseph Navez, for example, are pure French Neoclassicism. The two main Neoclassical artists in The Netherlands were Humbert de Superville and Jan Willem Pieneman. The principal Neoclassicist in Spain was José de Madrazo y Agudo.
baroque and neoclassical art - meconnaghan2