Skip to main content

Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Géricault

1791 - 1824

Géricault is now identified as a pioneer of Romanticism in French painting. He loved horses, and dramatic images of rearing horses feature in his work. He was born at Rouen, and from 1808 trained in Paris with Carle Vernet. But after two years he left Vernet - saying 'One of my horses would have devoured six of his' - to go to the Neo-classical painter Pierre Guérin, with whom his friend Delacroix later studied.

Géricault was influenced by the military subjects of Baron Gros and by works in the Louvre, notably those by Rubens and Renaissance Venetian painters. A visit to Italy in 1816-7 intensified Géricault's appreciation of Michelangelo. On his return to Paris he painted his most famous work, 'The Raft of the Medusa' (Paris, The Louvre), a scene of modern drama on a vast scale and executed in the heroic manner, which he exhibited at the Salon of 1819.

An admirer of English art, like Delacroix, he visited England in 1820-1, returning in a state of poor health. From his last years date an exceptional series of portraits, commissioned by a friend, of the inmates of a lunatic asylum.