Art, Art History and Design, School of


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Norgard, Kay. 2016 "Representing Revolution: Anti-Tyrannical Art of the Greek, Roman, and French Populist Agenda." Master's Thesis, Department of Art and Art History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2016.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Art History, Under the Supervision of Professors Michael Hoff and Philip Sapirstein. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2016

Copyright (c) 2016 Katherine Norgard


History is often shaped to fit certain agendas. Regular, flawed individuals become heroes and martyrs. The truth is often more complicated, as proven by the fact that Harmodios and Aristogeiton gained their fame by publicly slaughtering a well-liked ruler for encroaching on their pederastic relationship, Brutus gained his fame by murdering Julius Caesar for getting too close to his mother (and sister), and Jean-Paul Marat was exalted and worshiped for violence-inciting journalism.

Harmodios, Brutus, and Jean Paul Marat all serve as symbols of equalitarianism. Their public portrayals were crafted to be symbols that fit the [needs of] revolutionary agendas. As the traditions go: Greek tyrannicides, Harmodios and Aristogeiton, slew the Pisistratid tyrant Hipparchus to make way for democratic policy. Brutus and Cassius’s assassination was an effort to preserve the republican tradition in Rome. Marat’s martyrdom represented the evil of the opposing political factions. Art depicting these men were propagandized for the fight against tyranny.

This thesis will examine the kinds of “political spin” given to the memories of these men through art in order to further the respective revolutionary agenda. Examples from Greek, Roman, and French eras will demonstrate the artistic efforts that propagated the political agendas. The art created to honor these figures provide an illustrated history of populist symbols. Harmodios and Aristogeiton were immortalized in the Athenian Agora in the form of honorific statuary and the Athenians erected statues of Brutus and Cassius near them to honor their actions against the dictator, Julius Caesar. The image of Jean-Paul Marat’s murder was revealed in the courtyard of the Louvre after he was assassinated for his political convictions.

Examining the motivations and reception of each example reveals them as symbols rather than active agents of change shaping their respective political environments. Those symbols and the space in which they inhabited formed a propagandistic landscape that propelled the agendas of those that were responsible for their creation and placement.

Advisors: Michael Hoff and Philip Sapirstein