The age of the artist is different. But each work of this master has become a model for several generations of artists, and in the history of art it is difficult to find a painter close in talent and depth.
Theodore Gericault was born into a family of wealthy bourgeois. His father had several tobacco plantations in the south of France, his mother came from a highly respected merchant family. The boy’s childhood passed during the Great Revolution, which miraculously did not affect his family.
From his youth, Theodore was distinguished by two passions - horses and drawing. A good tone demanded that the offspring of a famous surname receive a good education and serve the fatherland. After graduating from a prestigious college, Gericault enters the military service, in the musketeers. By this time, revolutionary ideas were somewhat frayed and lost their rebellious meaning. France from the republic turned into an empire, and the empire, as you know, requires an imperial style in art. The heavy, clumsy and rich style of Empire could not please the young man who received the basics of painting art from such famous artists as Verne and Guerin, faithful to the old covenants of the great Flemings and Dutch.
The young musketeer writes his first works, as expected, on battle scenes. This period of creativity left us with many drawings and sketches depicting the horses that were loved by the master.
For 5 years (1810-1815), the artist diligently copies the works of Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian. All this time he has been trying to comprehend the secrets of the masters of the past and find his own style. An important role in the life of Gericault was played by a trip to Italy. Unlike France, in this country the picturesque traditions continuously developed over 6 centuries, and the rest of Europe often adopted everything that was born in Italy.
From the Italian trip, Jericho brings his most famous work, The Raft of the Medusa. ” The drama, emotionality, unprecedented accuracy and meaningfulness of the image surprised the French and left many indifferent. France has not yet adopted the fashion of romanticism, reveling in its own empire and the remnants of classicism. The French were not ready to appreciate the work of their great master.
Little time passed and the critics, adherents of academism in painting, suddenly discerned in Jericho a talented and courageous master. The French grunted and went to see the picture a second time. Glory has come ...
Enjoying the fame and the multitude of orders, Gericault proceeds to the work that he had planned in 1812. A romantic, citizen and creative person, the artist was going to write a monumental work on the topic of the retreat of the French troops from Russia. The plot was known, the composition was developed, prototypes were searched among the soldiers. A tragic accident interrupted the life of the master. In 1824, during a routine for Jericho riding, he fell from his horse. The blow fell on the temple.
The master’s legacy was several psychological portraits, battle paintings, several genre works, several unfinished sculptures and a huge number of drawings and sketches, in each of which you can see the master’s brilliant ideas, which remained unfinished.