Theodore Géricault1791 - 1824
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Theodore Géricault is considered to be the founding figure of French Romantic painting. His art represented a rejection of the static relief-like planes of the Neo-Classicists, adopting instead a passionate realism, more akin with Baroque painting, through which Géricault depicted life and dramatic events in a new and thrilling way.
Theodore Géricault's greatest and certainly his most famous painting, The Raft of the Medusa (completed 1819), was a phenomenon. This painting portrayed a highly sensitive recent event in which only a handful of survivors were rescued from the shipwreck of the Medusa. The painting was rejected by the traditionalist jury of the Paris Salon, for the overt realism of its figures and their desperate situation - such depiction was considered both insensitive and unsuitable for exhibition in France. In view of this, Géricault decided to tour his painting of the Raft in England, travelling here with the painter Nicholas Toussaint Charlet.
During his prolonged stay in this country from 1820 to 1822, Theodore Géricault was deeply impressed by English art. In England he was exposed to the equine art of George Stubbs and James Ward, whose work he admired greatly. Theodore Géricault himself was a great horseman and horses feature throughout much of his work. Aside from his personal passion, the horse had become a major symbol in Romantic art, symbolising vital strength, untamed energy and passion, or sometimes even fear.
The extent of Theodore Géricault's influence upon subsequent generations of artists is extraordinary for a man who exhibited so few major painted works. Much of Géricault's influence is due to his original lithographs and it was this aspect of his art which was to provide one of the starting points for the young Delacroix, who admired him deeply. [more]