Géricault, Jean Louis André Théodore
French painter and graphic artist. One of the main figures of the Romantic movement, he brought a new energy and emotional intensity to painting. His subjects included spirited horses, Napoleonic cavalry officers, and portraits, including remarkable studies of the insane, such as A Kleptomaniac (1822-23; Musée des Beaux Arts, Ghent). His The Raft of the Medusa (1819; Louvre, Paris), a vast history piece, was notorious in its day for its grim depiction of a recent scandal in which shipwrecked sailors had turned to murder and cannibalism in order to survive.
In The Raft of the Medusa, the classical nude of Jacques Louis David, realism of subject, and a Romantic force of feeling were characteristically blended; the picture made a strong impression on the young Eugène Delacroix, who incidentally posed for one of the figures. A visit to England followed (1820-22), and marked a change of direction. The sporting print and English genre picture alike attracted Géricault, The Derby at Epsom 1821 (Louvre, Paris) being a striking result, and he made several lithographs of London life and character and in addition an equestrian portrait of the Prince Regent (Wallace Collection, London).
Géricault studied 1808-10 under a painter of hunting and racing scenes, Carle Vernet, and then under the classicist Guérin, 1810-11, though it was Baron Gros who really inspired him to the dash and spirit of his early pictures of Napoleonic cavalry officers. Géricault left Paris for Italy 1816-17, where he conceived ambitious projects of painting in the grand style of Michelangelo and Raphael, making studies for a large canvas suggested by the Barberi horse race. In 1822-23, back in Paris, he executed a series of portraits, clinical in their veracity, of mentally ill patients in the Salpetrière hospital.
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