Théodore Géricault (1791-1824)
Théodore Géricault grew
up in the turbulent period of the French Revolution and
the reign of Napoleon. He studied with many important artists,
but the strongest influence on his art, if we don't consider
Goya, came from a painter named Baron Jean-Antoin Gros (1771-1835).
Géricault drew much inspiration from Gros's canvases,
which often made Napoleon the main character of an emotional
glorification, and started to build his view for Romantic
interpretation and for Romantic styles. Géricault
was fascinated by violence and horror, and like other romantics
sought and painted the passion and the emotions that overwhelm
topical events, so he made a series of bloodcurdling paintings
of decapitated heads of criminals. These are an example
of how Géricault searched strange, dark and previously
unknown images. His studies reflected his will to understand
the awful nature of pain, suffering, violence and death,
as well as his behavior: he often attempted to commit suicide
and he had a bad habit of riding dangerous horses. The series
of mad men and women paintings confirm how Géricault
courted madness and insanity. His studies on those subjects
demonstrates a fundamental shift in the concept of art and
of what it is supposed to depict. The famous "Raft
of the Medusa" showed Géricault's ability to
plan out and complete a wide and ambitious history painting.
In fact the story of the raft was a popular subject that
interested many of his contemporaries: the titanic struggle
of man against the forces of nature was a theme gorgeously
presented in his painting by the immense sea and the stormy
atmosphere terrorizing the powerless occupants of the raft.
Ultimately, Géricault left us just four or five works
completed, which was a condensation of research expressed
in notes and studies. He believed in the heroism that is
achieved through risky experiments-- he spend his life performing
and actually living the emotions he wanted to depict. Géricault
died from a fall off a horse in 1824.
1814. Oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
The Raft of the Medusa, 1819, oil on canvas, Musée
du Louvre, Paris.
The Madwoman, 1822, oil on canvas, Musée du