Study of a Man Theodore Gericault Buy Art Prints Now
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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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Study of a Man was created by Theodore Gericault, French artist between 1808 and 1812. He created the painting in Rouen, France. This was one of the many nude paintings that he prepared when he was learning and later in his career in artistry.

The Study of a Man was drawn with oil on canvas. It has a size of 65cm by 81 cm. When painting the male nude, Theodore was training in a studio owned by French Academy painter called Pierre-Narcisse Guerin. This complex, atmospheric image shows this artist’s ambition. The nude man is painted standing with legs apart and head bent as if posing for a photo. His left-hand rests on a large block while the other arm is stretched by the side of his body. The depiction of nude paintings was not a new concept with French artists. At the time, such images were called academies or nude studies and were an important part of an artist's training. The manner in which the young artist rendered the subject played a huge role in his approach for painting later in life and career.

This image helped Theodore to explore his understanding of human anatomy in a way that was not conventional at the time. It is thought that this type of art was key to the artist developing an interest in Michelangelo later in his short career. One of the other striking qualities of the image was the deployment of light and shade. The light source seems to be coming from the side that the male is facing, given the location of the shadows. Theodore plays with hues to give a realistic touch as he paints away from the source of light.

The type of art that incorporated these elements was called Romanticism. In the style, artists emphasised emotions and sense and not just order and reason were vital for understanding the world around us. This form of art celebrated an artist’s intuition and imagination in looking for liberty and individual rights.

Romanticism developed during the struggle for rights in French where everyone was looking for ways to express themselves. The new form of art brought in a wealth of creativity as artists were not bound by rules on what they should draw and how it should be drawn. This is where artists such as Theodore came and enhanced the quality of their images. Other painters that were inspired by the new form of art, Romanticism, included the French artist Eugene Delacroix, Caspar David Friedrich, a German artist, an English artist called JMW Turner and a Spanish writer called Francisco Goya. Despite the short career, Theodore is celebrated for his artistic play with lights and emotions.