The New International Encyclopædia/Géricault, Jean-Louis André Théodore
GÉRICAULT, zhắ'rḗ'kṓ', Jean-Louis André Théodore (1791-1824). A French painter, the leader of the Romantic School in its revolt against the tyranny of Classicism of David. His temperament was too vivid and sympathetic to tolerate the formal and conventional. The realities of his time appealed to him too intensely to permit his mind to rest upon the unrealities of the Classical School. As a realist, however, the scope of Géricault is limited.
Géricault was born at Rouen September 26, 1791. The family moved to Paris soon afterwards, and the boy entered the Lyceum Louis-le-Grand. He left this school in 1808. He first entered the atelier of Carle Vernet (q.v.), and in 1810 he went over to the atelier of Guérin, but there was never any artistic sympathy between master and pupil. 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.
At the Salon of 1812 Géricault exhibited one of the best known of his pictures, “A Cavalry Officer on Horseback.” His “Wounded Cuirassier” was exhibited in the Salon of 1814, but was not especially successful. Géricault in a fit of disappointment entered the army and served for a time in the garrison of Versailles. In 1816 he went to Italy, and, after a month in Florence, settled in Rome for two years. The work of the Italian masters affected him powerfully, that of Michelangelo appealing especially to his temperament. The productions of this period are perhaps the most vigorous of his entire career. They are mainly in the form of drawings, of which many have been preserved. The finest of these are a series of studies for a picture which he intended to paint of the horse-race in the Corso during Carnival. The painting called the “Raft of Medusa,” now in the Louvre, has come to be deemed one of the most powerful productions of the French School. At the exhibition of 1819, however, it was placed too high, and was received very coldly. Géricault carried the picture to England, where he exhibited it at a shilling admission, realizing 17,000 francs. During his stay in England Géricault associated much with Charlet, the lithographer and caricaturist. There are many of his powerful plates in collections throughout Europe. Géricault modeled frequently. Some bronzes and wax sketches by him are in existence, the finest of them being an anatomical study of a horse.
Soon after his return to Paris in 1822 Géricault was injured by a fall from a horse, and spent the rest of his life in extreme distress. He died in Paris January 26, 1824. Consult: Clément, Géricault: Etude biographique et critique (Paris, 1868); Brownell, French Art Classic and Contemporary (New York, 1901).