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Théodore Géricault (1791 – 1824) was an important French painter and lithographer, known for The Raft of the Medusa and other paintings. He was one of the pioneers of the Romantic movement.


The Raft of the Medusa (1819 - 491 x 716 cm; Louvre Museum) depicted the aftermath of a contemporary French shipwreck in which the captain had left the crew and passengers to die. The incident became a national scandal, and Géricault's dramatic interpretation presented a contemporary tragedy on a monumental scale. The painting's notoriety stemmed from its indictment of a corrupt establishment, but it also dramatized a more eternal theme, that of man's struggle with nature. It surely excited the imagination of the young Eugene Delacroix, who posed for one of the dying figures.

The classical depiction of the figures and structure of the composition stand in contrast to the turbulence of the subject, and creates an important bridge between the styles of neo-classicism and romanticism. The painting fuses many influences: the Last Judgment of Michelangelo, the monumental approach to contemporary events by Antoine-Jean Gros, figure groupings by Henry Fuseli, and possibly the painting Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley.


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Last updated: April 15, 2007