A French painter who studied with an admirer of David
(P.N. Guérin). Eugène Delacroix
, was profoundly influenced by Géricault, finding a major point of departure in his art.
As a student of rigid Neoclassism of the Davidain school receded, Géricault retained Jacques Louis David 's use of sharp light and shade. His work is also characterized by an evolution of naturalistic elements and move into the more theatrical display of contemporary events on large canvas. For Géricault (unlike his predecessors), these incidents did not always have a central hero. His Raft of the Medusa shows these masteries as well as those of Michelangelo and Peter Paul Rubens.
Although his use of Baroque techniques are plentiful, it is Géricault's use of shock tactics, astonishig the viewers sensibilities, added up to somthing new in the world of art--a new focus and mode that set off the "high" phase of Romanticism. In the period, an instinct for the sublime and the horrific, qualties which epitomize the esthetic theory and art of the eighteeenth century.
Engrossments in mental aberration, which fueled the growing interest in modern psychology in the nineteenth century, was another part of Romantic appeal-- a curiosity in the irregular and abandoned. These inner conflicts of humaity that overwhelmed rationality would hardly disappoint the rebels against the Age of Reason. Like many of his contemporaries, Géricault closely studied the impact of mental states on humanity and believed that the human face revealed character of madness and death. He made numerous investigations in institutions for the criminally insane, (indeed, even spending some time as a patient in such places), and he studied the severed heads of guillotine victims. Scientifc and artistic curiosity were not easliy defined from the morbidity of the Romantic interest in derangement and death.
Géricault's Insane Woman (Envy)
--her mouth tense and red-rimmed eyes is one of his many portraits of insane subjects that have an odd, entrancing power and depicts the psychologic mania with astounding accuracy. A foretelling of what was to beome the realistc core of Roamntic painting, this came in time to mean an optical truth....."the way things are." To Géricault madness, suffering and death meant nature itself in the end is formless and destructive.
His exhibite in Paris of his famous Raft of the Medusa, a turbulent painting of shipwrecked men at sea, ushered in French Romanticism. It depicted the aftermath of a contemporary French shipwreck. The work's macabre realism, its treatment of the raft incident as epic-heroic tragedy, had scandalous political implications at home. Géricault's picture of the raft and its inhabitants was greeted with hostility by the French government.
Géricault died in 1824 after a fall from a horse.
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Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.