Théodore Géricault: Celebrating the Great French Artist

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Théodore Géricault: Celebrating the Great French Artist
This week marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Théodore Géricault. He was the foremost artist of the Romantic era of French painting, almost single-handedly establishing the genre. His award-winning paintings were some of the most important pictures of his time, but his dark genius was condensed into a few short years. He passed away on January 26, 1824, at the early age of 32. Géricault was born in Rouen in 1791 as France was in the grip of revolution. His wealthy, land-owning parents moved to Paris where he plodded through his education at Lycée Impérial (now Lycée Condorcet at 8 rue du Havre). Despite his father’s disapproval, Géricaul pursued artistic training — a generous annuity bequeathed by his mother awarded him financial independence. Horace Vernet painting of Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Gericault, 1822 or 1823. Image Credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons Géricault entered the studio of Carle Vernet, a painter of the modern military genre which featured Géricault’s lifelong obsession – horses. Here he developed a remarkable talent for capturing animals in movement. In February 1811, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts, but quit to copy the old masters at the new Musée Napoléon (an early incarnation of the Louvre). This was also short lived because he was permanently banned from the museum for assaulting a fellow student there in 1812.   However, his first exhibit at the Paris Salon of 1812, The Charging Chasseur, now hangs at the Louvre. The huge painting of a fearful Napoleonic guard was completed in a nearly impossible 12 days. Though the painting earned him a medal, the painting wasn’t purchased by the French state. A subsequent painting exhibited in 1814, The Wounded Cuirassier Leaving the Battle, fared no better, perhaps because it represented Napoleon’s battlefields in a less-than-flattering light. Géricault was dissatisfied with the finished painting saying it lacked his personal experience of suffering.  Théodore Géricault, The Charging Chasseur, 1812. Credit: Sailko/Wikimedia Commons

Lead photo credit : Théodore Géricault, The Race of the Riderless Horses, 1817. Credit: J. Paul Getty Museum / Wikimedia commons

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.


  • Beth Gersh-Nesic
    2024-01-25 06:41:15
    Beth Gersh-Nesic
    Dear Hazel, I am so glad you wrote about Théodore Gericault, just in time to commemorate his death on January 26, 1824. A brilliant article and fitting tribute to an outstanding artist - one of the greats! Cheers, Beth