The Top 10 Theodore Gericault's Famous Paintings
Theodore Gericault was born to wealthy, conservative parents in Rouen, France, on July 26th, 1791. His father was a practicing lawyer, while his mother's family had a tobacco plantation.
His family moved to Paris when he was around 4 years old. There, he had the opportunity and privilege to enter prestigious schools.
These schools are where he first crafted and honed his skills in art. At the age of 15, he was already south after for his talent in drawing.
This was also when he started to take the study of art seriously. Although it may seem his life was going swell, his mother died when he was only 17.
His grandmother followed four years later. The consecutive deaths on his mother's side led to him having a hefty inheritance that would suffice for him to continue to pursue art school afterward.
Gericault was able to train with the likes of Bouillon and Vernet. After which, he entered the art school, École des Beaux-Arts, wherein he was under the tutelage of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin.
Below you will find his top 10 famous works:
1. Charging Chasseur by Theodore Gericault
The Charging Chasseur is a large-sized portrait depicting an officer from French Imperial Guard moving away from the viewers. This portrait depicts the chaos of battle and a soldier's bravery and heroism.
The background of the painting suggests an ongoing battle scene depicting the soldiers retreating.
The French Imperial Guard is an actual person, Alexandre Dieudonne, a friend of Theodore Gericault. With his sword ready, he is shown to face backward as if checking if his allies are behind him.
2. Male 'académie' Seated and Seen from Behind by Theodore Gericault
This piece is an early work by Théodore Géricault, painted while he was still training in the studio of the French Academy painter Pierre-Narcisse Guérin.
It shows off his ambition as a young artist, going for a piece that depicts a natural form of a man, a real triumph during those times. The nude male, viewed from behind, is contorted across the canvas.
You can see so much tension in the body. It increases from the feet upwards, showing Géricaul skill at an early age. The whole composition itself is rather dark, with little whites and yellows on the flesh of the nude male.
3. Cattle Market by Theodore Gericault
In Géricault's Cattle Market, the artist depicts a scene of a cattle market in an Italian country setting. The artist uses color and perspective to set up this scene so that it appears you could step into it and be part of it yourself. Depicted in the painting are three scantily dressed men wrestling with cattle.
It can be inferred that these cattle are wrestling for their lives which are awaiting their slaughter. On the right side of the painting, there is one man who was able to wrestle a cow to submission with the help of what seems to be a shepherd dog.
In relation to his last piece of a nude man, this piece shows his advanced skills in painting the human form in different poses to depict the physical struggle the body goes through.
4. Evening by Theodore Gericault
Géricault's Evening is a landscape painting of Italian scenery. What's remarkable about this painting is how it captures the eyes of the viewers and leads them from the back of the painting to the front.
At the top of the painting is a rocky mountain with an almost perfectly square peak. Below the mountain, you can see a small Italian town with a bridge. On the left side of the painting, there's a building with vines growing on it, and in the middle, you can see two people lounging by the river.
This painting shows Théodore Géricault's skill in perspective. If the earlier painting were of anatomy, this shows a different skill in the arsenal of the young French painter.
5. The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault
This painting depicts a struggle of men afloat on a raft in the sea. The men on the raft are a mix of some who are dead, some who are barely breathing, and some who are trying to get the attention of a ship nearby.
You can feel the struggle of the men on the raft. Once again, it shows Théodore's skill in contorting the human body to depict the struggle and stress that exudes tragedy or imminent death.
6. Guillotined Heads by Theodore Gericault
Guillotined Heads presents Théodore's mastery of the Italian art style of chiaroscuro or light and dark. In this method of visual art, the artist uses both light and shade to depict the volume of the subjects.
This piece depicts two guillotined heads, one male and one female. The female head is white as snow with her eyes closed, depicting a more calm expression. While the male head is more struggling with his eyes and mouth open.
Both heads also show different stages of decay, with emphasis on the laceration on the neck from the guillotine.
7. The Monomaniac of Gambling by Theodore Gericault
This painting is part of a series of portraits that Théodore painted before his demise. This series consisted of women who have become mentally ill due to their pursuant of their vices.
In The Monomaniac of Gambling, the elderly woman depicted exudes the struggle she has gone through in life. With her ill-fitting clothes and the crutch, she appears to be struggling to walk.
This subject has explicitly become mentally ill due to the adverse effects of gambling brought on her life. You can also see the hollows in her face, another note of Théodore's great skill in painting the human form regardless of what state in life.
8. The Derby of Epsom by Theodore Gericault
The artwork shows a crowded horse race at England's Epsom Downs racetrack, complete with a swarm of onlookers and a cacophony of horses, carriages, and jockeys.
Gericault went all the way to England to observe and draw the horse race, and the resulting artwork is famous for its detailed portrayal of the event and the wide range of socioeconomic groups in attendance.
The artwork stands out for its lively and exciting mood, which is achieved via the use of light and motion. It is now part of the permanent collection at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
9. The Insane Woman by Theodore Gericault
The woman in the artwork appears to be in a condition of anxiety and agitation, consistent with mental illness. This work is remarkable for the way it uses bold color and gestural brushwork to represent the subject's deep feelings.
The artwork is also significant for the social commentary it contains, which draws attention to the harshness and carelessness with which the mentally sick were historically met.
When displayed in the 1824 Paris Salon, the painting won widespread recognition and helped establish Gericault as one of the foremost artists of his day.
10. The Riderless Horse by Theodore Gericault
The "riderless horse" represents an ungoverned nation, and the French Revolution is associated with this image.
The artwork was shown at the 1817 Paris Salon, where it won widespread acclaim and contributed to Gericault's rise to prominence as a major painter of the period.
Its dramatic composition and use of light and shadow to create a sense of movement and energy have led many to call the painting a masterpiece of Gericault's early career. It is now part of the permanent collection at the Louvre Museum in Paris.