Gericault, Jean Louts Andre Theodore
GERICAULT, JEAN LOUTS ANDRE THEODORE (1791 - 1824), French painter, led the inevitable reaction which set in under the empire against the fixed and strictly limited aims of the school of David. He was born at Rouen in 1791. In 1808 he entered the studio of Charles Vernet, from which, in 1810, he passed to that of Guerin, whom he drove to despair by his passion for Rnbens, and by the unorthodox manner in which he persisted in interpreting nature. At the Salon of 1812 Gericault attracted attention by his "Officier de Chasseurs ii Cheval " (Louvre), a work in which he personified the cavalry in its hour of triumph, and turned to account the solid training received from Guerin in rendering a picturesque paint of view which was in itself a protest against the cherished convictions of the pseudo-classical school. Two years later (1814) he re-exhibited this work accompanied with the reverse picture "Cuirassier blesso " (Louvre), and in both subjects called attention to the interest of contemporary aspects of life, treated neglected types of living form, and exhibited that mastery of and delight in the horse which was a feature of his character. Disconcerted by the tempest of contradictory opinion which arose over these two pictures, Gericault gave way to his enthusiasm for horses and soldiers, and enrolled himself in the inousquetaires. During the Hundred Days he followed the king to Bethune, but, on his regiment being disbanded, eagerly returned to his profession, left France for Italy in 1816, and at Rome nobly illustrated his favourite animal by Iris great painting " Course des Chevaux Libres." Return ing to Paris, Gericault exhibited at the Salon of 1819 the "Radeau de la Moduse " (Louvre), a subject which not only enabled him to prove his zealous and scientific study of the human form, but contained those elements of the heroic and pathetic, as existing in situations of modern life, to which he had appealed in his earliest productions. Easily depressed or elated, Gericault took to heart the hostility which this work excited, and passed nearly two years in London, where the " Radeau " was exhibited with success, and where he executed many series of admirable lithographs now rare. At the close of 182Z he was again in Paris, and produced a great quantity of projects for vast compositions, models in wax, and a horse ecorcke, as preliminary to the production of an equestrian statue. His health was now completely undermined by various kinds of excess, and on 26th January 1824 he died at the age of thirty-three. That which he left us is effective only as a protest ; his work, like his life, lacked the fixity of conscious purpose ne:.•essary to the task of reconstruction. Had he steadied himself and survived the abuse of his powers, he might have played an important part in determining the course of the modern school, for, though no colourist, lie was in other respects richly endowed, and was possessed by a rare energy which redeemed even that tendency to undue emphasis which gives a theatrical character to much of the best French work. Gericault's biography, accompanied by a catalogue raisoince of his works, was published by M. C. Clement in 1868.