Théodore Géricault

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Géricault, Théodore


Born Sept. 26, 1791, in Rouen; died Jan. 26, 1824, in Paris. French painter and graphic artist.

Géricault studied with C. Vernet (1808-10) and P. Guérin (1810-11) and was influenced by A. Gros. Although he retained classical art’s predilection for generalized heroic images, Géricault was the first French artist to express the essence of romanticism—an acute awareness of the conflicts in the world and a striving to embody in his works extraordi-nary contemporary events and strong passions. Even his first works were distinguished by their highly emotional images and dynamic composition and color, with the dominant dark tone made more lively by intense color accents and strong impasto brush strokes. They reflected the turbulence of the Napoleonic wars, with their desperate bravado (Officer of the Imperial Guard, 1812, the Louvre), as well as a sense of bewilderment and tragic ending (The Wounded Cuiraissier, 1814, the Louvre). During his travels in Italy (1816-17), Gericault was influenced by classic art, particularly Michelangelo. The images in his works became more generalized and monumental, their delineation clearer (The Run of Free Horses at Rome, 1817, the Louvre).

One of Gericault’s masterpieces and a major romantic painting is the Raft of the Medusa (1818-19, the Louvre), which depicts an extremely topical subject—the tragic fate of most of the passengers of the frigate Medusa, who perished on a raft in the ocean through the government’s fault. The painting had great social impact. Endowing an accident with symbolic meaning, Gericault reveals the complex spectrum of human feelings—from dark despair to an explosive burst of hope. The dynamics of the huge canvas is determined by the diagonal composition, the energetic modeling of powerful spaces, and the tense contrasts of light and dark.

The Portrait of Delacroix at Twenty (c. 1819, Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics, Rouen) and the self-portraits ex-press Géricault’s view of a romantic artist as an independent emotional personality. The objective portraits of the insane (c. 1822), which depict the destructive influence of passions, reflect the artist’s genuine humanism.

Géricault was impressed by the unique outlook and customs of England, where he traveled between 1820 and 1821. In rich, subtly colored paintings and watercolors and in lithographs (the Great and Small English Series, 1820-21) he painted scenes of the people’s way of life, showing social contrasts with pitiless truthfulness, as well as scenes of horse races (The Derby at Epsom, 1821, the Louvre). In the severe, lonely Kiln (1822, the Louvre), the motif of a humdrum life is the pretext for a romantically intense embodiment of the world’s materiality. Géricault was one of the pioneers of lithography. Some of his sculptures have also been preserved.


Zheriko o sebe i sovremenniki o nem. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from French.)
Prokofev, V. N. Teodor Zheriko. Moscow, 1963.
Berger, K. Gericault et son oeuvre. Paris, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Several other major works have been similarly renamed after curators of 'Black Models: From Gericault to Matisse' -which opens Tuesday at the d'Orsay Museum - turned historical detective to hunt down the identity of their sitters.
Crow discusses, among many topics, David's art and influence during exile, Gericault's odyssey through outcast Rome and Ingres's drive to reconcile religious art with contemporary mentalities, the titled victors over Napoleon all sitting for portraits by Lawrence, and the campaign to restore art objects expropriated by the French from Italy, prefiguring the restitution controversies of our own time.
on a slab, based on preparatory paintings by Gericault for The Raft of
Each of the 17 essays in this collection explores an individual artist, ranging from Gericault and Delacroix to Magritte and Barnes' personal friend, British abstract painter Howard Hodgkin.
The exhibition was organized around related themes and featured works by prominent artists including William Blake, Theodore Gericault, Francisco de Goya, John Constable, Honore Daumier, Eugene Delacroix, and Joseph Mallord William Turner.
Theodore Gericault's desolate depiction of survivors washed out on a raft in the West African sea is admired for its ground-breaking use of Romantic swirls and chiaroscuro.
Eugene Delacroix, Jacques Louis David, and Theodore Gericault combined facial expression and dramatic subject matter to pack an emotional wallop.
(13) Perhaps the most well-known visual representation of a shipwreck from the early 19th century is Theodore Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa, which was exhibited at the 1819 Salon, and travelled to London and then Dublin in 1820-1821.
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Spanning the history of art from the late 18th to the mid-20th century, the group to be offered incorporates powerful works by the greatest names of their time: Goya, Delacroix, Gericault, Corot, Turner, Degas, Manet, Bonnard, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat, Matisse, Klee, Picasso and Giacometti.
Concluding his survey of Gericault's Monomania portraits, Cork writes, 'Disturbing, poignant and utterly clear-sighted, these honest studies executed with such deft authority in the gloom of asylums herald a turning point in Western Society's attitude towards demented humanity' (p.