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Théodore Géricault
Date: French painter and draftsman, 1791–1824
Biography: Born in Rouen, France, Géricault was educated in the tradition of English sporting art by Carle Vernet and classical figure composition by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin Géricault soon left the classroom, choosing to study at the Louvre, where from 1810 to 1815 he copied paintings by Rubens, Titian, Velázquez and Rembrandt. Géricault's first major work, The Charging Chasseur, exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1812, revealed the influence of the style of Rubens and an interest in the depiction of contemporary subject matter. A trip to Florence, Rome, and Naples (1816–17) ignited a fascination with Michelangelo.

Perhaps his most significant, and certainly most ambitious work, is The Raft of the Medusa (1818–1819), which depicted the aftermath of a contemporary French shipwreck. Géricault's dramatic interpretation presented a contemporary tragedy on a monumental scale. The painting ignited political controversy when first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1819; it then traveled to England in 1820, accompanied by Géricault himself, where it received much praise.

After his return to France in 1821, Géricault was inspired to paint a series of ten portraits of the insane, the patients of a friend, Dr. Étienne-Jean Georget, a pioneer in psychiatric medicine, with each subject exhibiting a different affliction. The paintings are noteworthy for their bravura style, expressive realism, and for their documenting of the psychological discomfort of individuals. Weakened by riding accidents and chronic tubercular infection, Géricault died in Paris in 1824 after a long period of suffering.

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