However, he was more interested in drawing than studying to be an architect. Because of David's growing discontent and his failure to do well at the college, his mother and uncles sent him to study under a distant relative; Francois Boucher, a well-known Rococo artist. Soon Boucher also recognized David's restlessness and his rejection of the Rococo genre. As a result of this Boucher persuaded his friend, Joseph-Marie Vien, to take David under wing for the purpose of instruction him in the classical painting style. He also wanted Vien to see to it that David the attended the Royal Academy-later to be known as The Louvre.
Attending the academy represented another turning point in David's life. Finally, he was able to do what he wanted to do. Excited about the possibilities now awaiting him, it wasn't long until he met a constitute-Gavin Hamilton. With his approval and others of the same thinking, it wasn't long until David was confident in his own abilities and works. Soon he was recognized as one of the most important artists of the neo-classical movement. However, he felt he could do more in Paris, and returned there in 1780. In the years following this, David began to be considered as one of the most serious artists of the times to represent the social and political society in which they lived.
Still under tutelage of Vien, David was full of ambition and confident in his work to the point of believing he could win the academy's acclaimed "Prix de Rome" award. After several failed attempts to do so, David became enraged at the judges, including Vien, for their favoring lesser talented students over him. According to legend, David was so upset over this that he attempted to starve himself. Overcoming his despair, he continued to compete for the award, and in 1774, he succeeded- his diligence had finally been rewarded.
Soon after this, Vien was appointed director of the French Academy of Rome in Italy. Upon accepting the appointment, Vien decided to take David with him, and when they arrived there, Vien enrolled him into the French Academy. It was during this period that David came to know Gavin Hamilton who was one of the most important promoters of the classical movement. Hamilton became another important character in David's life. He made it possible for David to solidify his desires to pursue classicism. It was also during this time that David was greatly influenced by the ruins of Pompeii; so much so that he filled twelve books with sketches of the old Roman site. David would incorporate these sketches into his work for the remainder of his life. They were also part of what established him as one of the greatest draughtsman of his time.
While David was in Italy, he began to study the works of the great masters; in particular those of Raphael. As a student at the academy and in spite of his lack of social graces, David's genius was recognized not only by his teachers but also by his fellow students. David studied there for five years and then returned to Paris, where he continued to effect a change in art ideas about classicism. One of the ways David did this was by becoming a member of the Royal Academy. Although two of David's paintings were included in the Salon of 1781, the officers of the academy were not impressed; instead, they were angered by David's arrogance. But the king was impressed with David and his works and offered him lodging in the Louvre. Shortly after