Theodore Gericault

Alternative Name(s): Jean-Louis-Andre-Theodore G
Date of Birth: September, 26, 1791
Place of Birth: Rouen, France
Date of Death: January 26, 1824
Focus: Painter
Art movement: Romanticism
Nationality: French

Famous Theodore Gericault Artwork

Theodore Gericault Biography

A pre-eminent French Romantic painter, Theodore Gericault began his painting career as a neo-classicist under the tutelage of Pierre Narcisse Guerin and Carle Vernet, but he was heavily influenced by Peter Paul Rubens.

Gericault learned the techniques of classicist composition and figure composition from Guerin, and he mastered the techniques of English sporting art under Vernet.

In 1815, Gericault volunteered in the Royalist regiment during the time of the Hundred Days campaign of the Napoleonic War. His close study of horses and soldiers informed many of his paintings, which were highly realistic and emotionally-charged. Gericault became renowned for paintings that were epic in size and scope.

The painting that most defines Gericault is arguably Raft of the Medusa, which is displayed in the Louvre. In the painting, Gericault combines the schools of Romanticism and Realism to depict a graphic and agonizing shipwreck wherein only a few people survive. The monumental work was highly controversial because it spoke of corruption and negligence within the government of the day. The ensuing controversy assured Gericault’s fame.

Theodore Gericault’s life was short but flamboyant and daring. He thought that adversity was essential for the full expression of creative genius. Gericault died at 33 years-of-age. Ironically, for a painter given to the painting of horses, he died following a protracted illness that was brought about by a riding accident.

His intense study of insanity, witnessed in his portraits of insane subjects, lay undiscovered for nearly half a century after he died.