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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Theodore Gericault was largely known as a Romantic painter and a lithographer who took a huge amount of inspiration from contempoary events to portray in his paintings

Famously inspired by horses, a lot of his creations included these glorious beasts. Gericault learned the lessons of those before him in order to create the best art he possibly could including Michelangelo and Rubens sometimes literally recreating their best work. As well as the Romantic and Neoclassic movements as well as still life, Gericault delved into lithography. Perhaps the most famous of Gericault's work is The Raft of the Medusa. An oil painting, it was completed when Gericault was just 27 and now is an iconic symbol of the Romantic movement. Drawn to contempoary events, this painting is no exception. The artwork centres around the subject of the wreck of the Méduse which met its fate in 1816.

Another work by Gericault is The Charging Chasseur which is also an oil painting completed in approximately 1812. The painting displays a Napoleonic office mounted upon a steed and ready for battle. Though always inspired by Romanticism, this painting (much like others) was breaking away from Classical tendencies due to how vigorously the paint has been handled. The Wounded Cuirassier was achieved by Gericault in 1814. It features a single soldier moving down a slope accompanied by his trusty beast. This was an incredibly significant painting, as it was created just months after Napoleon's fall. Instead of portraying a victorious soldier in battle, this soldier is a symbol of French defeat. The title describes the figure as wounded, but no physical marks can be seen upon the soldier. Perhaps Gericault was discussing the state of the defeated soldier's pride or even the morale of France.

Gericault's fascination and passion for horses is shown throughout many of his paintings that feature the four legged animals. Some of his paintings just include horses, displaying their majestic size and frame. It was almost inevitable that Gericault created a painting portaying a horse race. The 1821 Derby at Epsom is just that creation. Though typical of Gericault to record contemporary events, it is unlike a lot of his creations due to the fact it takes place in England.


Lithography is a method of painting that was invented in the late 1700's. It was intended as a cheap alternative to printing and publishing certain works. Not only can this method be used to print text onto paper or any other kinds of material, artwork can also be used in the same way and that was what attracted Gericault.


Though Romanticism originally focused more on landscapes than scenes and topics, Gericault takes this further with his style. Landscapes was a good base for someone like Gericault as it provided a stage for his subjects which often reflected present day events. The Romantic movement also produced a number of incredibly large paintings and Gericault did not shy away from this. His Medusa artwork itself was a huge size.


Neoclassical paintings are just that. They rebel against the traditional and classical methods of ideas of painting and aim for radical and exciting ways to create art. The movements of Neoclassicism and Romanticism in some ways clash against each other. See also Jacques Louis David paintings. It takes brave artistis such as Gericault to take flavours and inspiration from both of them and make something iconic and almost immortal. Though these movements are much larger than just the paintings that were created in their time, artwork is perhaps one of the easiest ways to view how much these movements influenced culture.

Theodore Gericault is one of a number of famous artists to have produced a lot in just a short space of time, ensuring their legacy was not impacted by a short lifespan. The likes of Van Gogh, Egon Schiele and Frida Kahlo were all taken from us relatively young, but without their names being forgotten.


Gericault was eager to get as much inspiration from fellow and late artists as he possibly could. One of Gericault's main tutors was Pierre-Narcisse Guerin who perhaps together symbolised the tension between ageing and young movements. Guerin disliked how impulsive Gericault was when it came to art but still wanted him to flourish and grow due to a large amount of talent. Inevitably, Gericault left the nest with the foundations of Classicism and built upon them with the blocks of contempoary methods and styles. Gericault's other tutor was Carle Vernet, these two artists had a lot more in common. Vernet was also passionate about horses and rode them throughout his life, perhaps passing this love down onto Gericault. He was also a keen lithographer which Gericault also practiced.

These two artists would have shaped Gericault in very different ways. Vernet instructed Gericault on sporting art, such as how to construct a horse's anatomy. Whilst Guerin guided Gericault through figure composition. Gericault would come to combine these two lessons and create beautiful paintings portraying soldiers upon and alongside their horses. He would also create his own art, inspired by relevant events. Theodore Gericault is partly responsible for the strength behind Romanticism, particularly French Romanticism.