Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault (September 26, 1791 - January 26, 1824) was a French painter and lithographer, considered to be one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement. Largely self-taught, Géricault only trained in a studio for about three years.
He spent much of his time copying paintings in the Louvre and travelled to Rome where he was introduced to and greatly influenced by the works of Michelangelo and Baroque art.
Now hanging in the Louvre, Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa, 1818-19, is one of the most famous Romantic paintings in existence. In its 1819 debut in the Paris Salon, the painting caused a stir among the public, as Géricault’s mixture of Romanticism and Realism created a dramatic recreation of the shipwreck that conveyed the harrowing reality faced by those forced to quite literally cling to survival, and resort to unimaginable methods to do so. Among Géricault’s studies in morgues and hospitals to create the figures in the painting, Géricault’s friend and fellow Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix also posed as one of the figures. Géricault broke the mold of what was acceptable to be shown at the Salon—not only was Géricault’s Romantic style against the grain of the Salon’s typical focus on Neoclassical art, it was not common at the time for artists to use painting as a means of political commentary on contemporary events. Needless to say, The Raft of the Medusa gained Géricault widespread recognition.
Though Géricault’s life was cut short at the young age of 33, he greatly impacted the development of art in the nineteenth century.