Théodore Géricault
French painter



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Théodore Géricault
French painter
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Birth Date

September 26, 1791

Death Date

January 26, 1824

Arty Fact

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Théodore Géricault was mostly self-taught. After receiving an inheritance from his deceased mother, he entered a master's studio to learn painting.

To avoid the rebuke of his father, Gericault had his uncle vouch that he'd entered the family trade as a tobacco merchant. Just like any father, the elder Gericault just hoped his boy would enter the wholesome cigarette business rather than something morally bankrupt, like being an artist.

Gericault left the classroom and mastered painting by copying meisterwerks in the Louvre and around Rome, particularly those by Michelangelo. He was banned from the Louvre, then called the Musee Napoleon, for assaulting a fellow art student. While the reason for this scuffle is lost to history, it's likely a case of Gericault picking out the largest person in the art yard to show no one should criticize him.

When he was called for military service in a draft, Gericault purchased a substitute. Three years later, he volunteered in the National Guard for the king, making him a legit musketeer. The entire squad was forced into hiding in 1814 after Napoleon sent the king into exile. Napoleon ordered all the musketeers, like Gericault, to stay away from Paris. However  it's likely that Paris is exactly where Gericault stayed throughout the exile. The king returned to the throne by July and Gericault, and many others, were discharged honorably. Military lesson of the day: Shrug off responsibilities until they're convenient and disobey all orders, and you'll do just fine.

Gericault's only child was from a relationship with his reportedly hot aunt, Alexandrine-Modeste. They were forcibly separated and the child sent away, never to meet his father. Years after Gericault's premature death, the culmination of horse riding accidents and spinal tuberculosis, his son would put forth the funds for his father's final resting place. Gericault and Alexandrine were related only through marriage, so the incest wasn't 'biological.' If that's the distinction you have to make for it to sound okay, it's probably not a good idea... if you're a prude.

As an artist, Gericault continually bucked what art aficionados considered appropriate subjects. His major work, Raft of the Medusa, was censured in France. No one purchased it, despite a gold medal in the Louvre's Salon of 1819. Gericault toured Raft to paying crowds in Britain for two years. The painting's subversive content raising ire in France were hilarious to the British. After watching various BBC series on Netflix, we don't think the British even know what British humor is.

Portraits of the mentally ill by Gericault were discovered a half century after his death, furthering a legacy that pushed the boundaries of acceptability. There were originally ten in the series, but five survive. It's possible that the five missing works complement the five extant ones as a before and after advertisement showing the benefits of psychiatric treatment on five individuals with various pathologies. Even then, poor artists took jobs in advertising to fund their passion projects.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Théodore Géricault

Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault (French: [ʒɑ̃ lwi ɑ̃dʁe teodoʁ ʒeʁiko]; 26 September 1791 – 26 January 1824) was an influential French painter and lithographer, whose best-known painting is The Raft of the Medusa. Although he died young, he was one of the pioneers of the Romantic movement.

Early life

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, a rigorous classicist who disapproved of his student's impulsive temperament while recognizing his talent. 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.

During this period at the Louvre he discovered a vitality he found lacking in the prevailing school of Neoclassicism. Much of his time was spent in Versailles, where he found the stables of the palace open to him, and where he gained his knowledge of the anatomy and action of horses.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Théodore Géricault.