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Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Géricault, A Horse frightened by Lightning

Key facts
Full title A Horse frightened by Lightning
Artist Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Géricault
Artist dates 1791 - 1824
Date made about 1813-14
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 48.9 × 60.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1938
Inventory number NG4927
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Horse frightened by Lightning
Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Géricault

Géricault was a keen horseman, and his passion for horses was matched by his expert understanding of their anatomy. In 1813 he produced a number of oil studies and finished paintings, possibly including this one, of horses at the Imperial stables at Versailles. These paintings are characterised by close observation and detailed naturalism.

In this picture, we see a fine thoroughbred. Géricault has shown the moment it reacts to a bolt of lightning (in the upper right corner), and presumably the accompanying clap of thunder. He avoided the more dramatic, and perhaps rather clichéd, image of a horse rearing, instead showing the animal in profile as it freezes in fear.

Géricault brilliantly captured the sheen of the dappled coat as it is momentarily lit up against the near blackness of the night sky. Using short, staccato strokes of liquid paint, which precisely follow the contours of the horse’s body, he created an effect of nervous energy that ripples across its silky surface.

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