Theodore Gericault  
Theodore Gericault
Theodore Gericault, in full Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Géricault (born September 26, 1791, Rouen, France—died January 26, 1824, Paris), painter who exerted a seminal influence on the development of Romantic art in France. Géricault was a dandy and an avid horseman whose dramatic paintings reflect his flamboyant and passionate personality.

As a student Géricault learned the traditions of English sporting art from the French painter Carle Vernet, and he developed a remarkable facility for capturing animal movement. He also mastered classicist figure construction and composition under the academician Pierre Guérin. Another student of Guérin, Eugène Delacroix, was profoundly influenced by Géricault, finding in his example a major point of departure for his own art.

As demonstrated by his earliest major work, The Charging Chasseur (1812), which depicts an officer astride a rearing horse on a smoky battlefield, Géricault was drawn to the colourist style of the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens and to the use of contemporary subject matter in the manner of an older colleague, the painter Antoine-Jean Gros. At the Salon of 1814, Géricault’s Wounded Cuirassier shocked critics with its mournful subject and sombre colours. While in Florence and Rome (1816–17), he became fascinated with Michelangelo and Baroque art. His chief project at this time was Race of the Riderless Horse, a heroic frieze composition (never completed) depicting a dangerous race that was an annual event.

After returning to France, Géricault drew a group of lithographs on military subjects that are considered among the earliest masterworks in that medium. Géricault’s masterpiece is the large painting entitled The Raft of the Medusa (c. 1819). This work depicts the aftermath of a contemporary French shipwreck, whose survivors embarked on a raft and were decimated by starvation before being rescued at sea. The shipwreck had scandalous political implications at home—the incompetent captain, who had gained the position because of connections to the Bourbon Restoration government, fought to save himself and senior officers while leaving the lower ranks to die—and so Géricault’s picture of the raft and its inhabitants was greeted with hostility by the government. The work’s macabre realism, its treatment of the raft incident as epic-heroic tragedy, and the virtuosity of its drawing and tonalities combine to give the painting great dignity and carry it far beyond mere contemporary reportage. The portrayal of the dead and dying, developed within a dramatic, carefully constructed composition, addressed a contemporary subject with remarkable and unprecedented passion.

Disappointed by the reception of The Raft of the Medusa, Géricault took the painting to England in 1820, where it was received as a sensational success. He remained there for two years, enjoying the equine culture and producing a body of lithographs, watercolours, and oils of jockeys and horses. Upon his return to France, his friendship with Étienne Georget, a pioneer in psychiatric studies, inspired his series of portraits of victims of insanity, each of whom was seen as a “type” of affliction, including Kleptomania and Delusion of Military Command. Repeated riding accidents and chronic tubercular infections ruined his health, and he died after a long period of suffering.

Encyclopædia Britannica


An Officer of the Chasseurs Commanding a Charge
Oil on canvas, 349 x 266 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Riderless Horse Races
Oil on canvas, 45 x 60 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Man with Delusions of Military Command
Oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm
Private collection

A Madwoman and Compulsive Gambler
c. 1822
Oil on canvas, 77 x 65 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Portrait of a Kleptomaniac
c. 1820
Oil on canvas, 61,2 x 50,2 cm
Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent


Musée des Beaux-Arts at London


The Raft of the Medusa
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Wounded Cuirassier

The Blacksmith's Signboard
oil on wood
Kunsthaus at Zurich

La doma de toros

The Epsom Derby
Oil on canvas, 92 x 122 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Leda and the Swan


Paesaggio con acquedotto (La sera)

Famiglia italiana

Slaves Restraining a Horse

Study of a Head
Oil on canvas
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Tre trombettieri a cavallo

Portrait Study

La muerte de Hipolito

El Beso

Ritratto di Mustafa


Riderless Racers in Rome, 1817, The Walters Art Museum

Portrait Study of a Youth, ca. 1818–1820

Heroic Landscape with Fishermen

A Carabinier with his Horse
Oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm
Musйe des Beaux-Arts, Rouen

Portrait of a Man
Oil on canvas, 81 x 54 cm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris

The Horse Race
Oil on paper attached to canvas, 44 x 59 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Portrait of an Artist in His Studio
c. 1820
Oil on canvas, 147 x 114 cm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris

The Wreck
Oil on canvas, 19 x 25 cm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris

The Plaster Kiln
Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris

Horse Market: Five Horses at the Stake
Watercolour over black pancil and red chalk, 230 x 300 mm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris

English Horse in Stable
Watercolour, 190 x 240 mm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris