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Théodore Géricault  

b. 1791 Rouen, France, d. 1824 Paris
painter; draftsman

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Obstacles and difficulties which repel mediocre men are a necessity and nourishment to genius. They mature and elevate it, when in an easier road it would have remained cold.
--Théodore Géricault

Géricault's fiery, daring personality and short life fit the mold of Romantic artists of his era and, along with his controversial paintings, profoundly influenced nineteenth-century art. Despite about three years of studio training, Géricault was largely self-taught. He copied paintings in the Louvre and traveled to Rome, where he discovered Michelangelo's works and the exuberance of Baroque art.

In his enormous Raft of the Medusa, now at the Louvre, Géricault mixed Realism and Romanticism, raising a contemporary event--a shipwreck with few survivors--to the dignity of monumental art. To achieve accuracy, he used a model of the raft and carefully studied real cadavers. Eugène Delacroix posed for one of the figures. The wreck was attributed to governmental negligence and corruption. The resulting controversy, combined with the painting's veracity, brought Géricault widespread attention.

Géricault died in 1824 after a prolonged illness caused by a riding accident. His last major works, discovered almost fifty years after his death, were penetrating portraits of the insane. Like the Raft of the Medusa, they offered a new concept of appropriate subject matter for serious painting.

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Horse Head / Géricault
Horse Head

French, 1812-1814

Calvary Skirmish / Géricault
Calvary Skirmish

French, 1812-1814

Cavalry Skirmish / Géricault
Cavalry Skirmish

French, 1812-1814

Man on Rearing Horse / Géricault
Man on Rearing Horse

French, 1812-1814

Group of Three Figures / Géricault
Group of Three Figures

French, 1812-1814