Jump to content

[Article] Coldplay and the French connection


Recommended Posts



Elizabeth S writes on the different connections that Coldplays new album Viva La Vida has with art.


Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, born in 1798, was a French Romantic artist, held by many as the pioneer of the French Romantic School. Delacroix could represent reality with the skill of a master and yet borrow richly from exotic inspirations. Also hugely proficient at lithography, he illustrated various works of William Shakespeare, the Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott and the German writer Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. But what Delacroix himself did not know was that he would be the album cover artist for a 20th century band that he never knew existed.


The band is the British rock band Coldplay which released its fourth album Viva La Vida on June 17 this year, finally gratifying its colossal fan base across the globe. Another phenomenal album isn’t a surprise at all, but the band’s 10 novel tunes that have been packaged in a 19th century painting, certainly is.


The album sleeve carries Delacroix’s most influential work, La Liberté guidant le peuple (Liberty leading the people), painted in 1830. The painting is a political poster with a powerful visual depiction of the event on July 28, 1830, when the people rose and dethroned the Bourbon king. Delacroix himself wasn’t part of the event, but wanted to paint it for sentimental value. The artwork shows Parisians, alight with the spirit of revolution, striding behind the French tricolour with a bed of dead soldiers in the foreground.


The flag is carried by a striking female figure believed to be ‘Liberty’. She is shown to be wearing the Phrygian cap that became a symbol of liberty during the French Revolution of 1789.


The then French government had bought the painting, but officials thought it to be too bold and provocative. It was removed from public view until it was finally put on display by the newly-elected President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.


Today, this iconic artwork is displayed in the Louvre, Paris. It’s not just the borrowed 19th century painting that has baffled everyone about the new album. It’s also the album title Viva La Vida.


An incredibly optimistic phrase if one deciphers what it means, which is ‘Long live life’. The title is borrowed too and from the archives of fine art. Viva La Vida is Mexican surrealist Frida Kahlo’s last painting.


The painting shows a cluster of water melons and in the centre is a sliced melon with the inscription Viva La Vida. Lead Singer Chris Martin apparently chose the title inspired by Frida’s courage; she lived a life full of hardships, bore polio, a broken spine and chronic pain for decades.


But all this didn’t stop her from painting a vibrant piece of art and calling it Viva La Vida or ‘Long live life’.


An eerie semblance to Coldplay’s album is Viva la revolution, an album by Japanese band Dragon Ash. It has not only a familiar name, but even the album cover is modelled on La Liberté.


The name and sleeve of the album are starkly different from Coldplay’s previous albums. Designed by Tappin Gofton, the cover of the band’s preceding album ‘X and Y’ was a cryptic image of colour blocks on a black background. The blocks were a graphical representation, based on a binary code known as Baudot.


Not remotely close to the romantic representation of revolution. But then again, Viva La Vida isn’t just another Coldplay album. It is the album that marks the advent of a supposed sonic renaissance from the band.


In its quest to reinvent itself, the album opens with Persian santur and has lyrics that are meant to be much more abstract. The album is almost like a journey through unmoving scenes, with experimental sounds.


What is different is the band’s visual promotion, and ‘Liberty leading the people’ with Viva la Vida boldly slapped on it definitely does justice to the band’s intentions of meandering from stereotypes.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...