Théodore Gericault, was an influential French painter and lithographer, known for The Raft of the Medusa and other paintings. Although he died young, he was one of the pioneers of the Romantic movement.
Géricault’s first major work, The Charging Chasseur, exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1812, revealed the influence of the style of Rubens and an interest in the depiction of contemporary subject matter. This youthful success, ambitious and monumental, was followed by a change in direction: for the next several years Géricault produced a series of small studies of horses and cavalrymen.
Géricault continually returned to the military themes of his early paintings. Perhaps his most significant, and certainly most ambitious work, is The Raft of the Medusa (1818–1819), which depicted the aftermath of a contemporary French shipwreck, Meduse, in which the captain had left the crew and passengers to die.
After his return to France in 1821, Géricault was inspired to paint a series of ten portraits of the insane, with each subject exhibiting a different affliction. There are five remaining portraits from the series.
Géricault’s last efforts were directed toward preliminary studies for several epic compositions. The preparatory drawings suggest works of great ambition, but Géricault’s waning health intervened. Weakened by riding accidents and chronic tubercular infection, Géricault died in Paris in 1824 after a long period of suffering.