Théodore Géricault (26 September 1791 – 26 January 1824) was a profoundly influential French artist, painter and lithographer, known for The Raft of the Medusa and other paintings. Although he died young, he became one of the pioneers of the Romantic movement.
The Charging Chasseur, 1812.Born in Rouen, France, Géricault was educated in the tradition of English sporting art by Carle Vernet and classical figure composition by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, a rigorous classicist who disapproved of his student's impulsive temperament, but recognized his talent.
Géricault soon left the classroom, choosing to study at the Louvre instead, where he copied from paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, Diego Velázquez, and Rembrandt for about six years, from 1810 to 1815. There he found a vitality which he preferred to the prevailing school of Neoclassicism.
His 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. He exhibited Wounded Cuirassier at the Salon in 1814, a work more labored and less well received. In the nearly two years that followed he underwent a self-imposed study of figure construction and composition, all the while evidencing a personal predilection for drama and expressive force.
A trip to Florence and Rome (1816–17), prompted in part by the desire to flee from a romantic entanglement with his aunt, ignited a fascination with Michelangelo. Rome itself inspired the preparation of a monumental canvas, the Race of the Barberi Horses, a work of epic composition and abstracted theme that promised to be "entirely without parallel in its time". In the event, Géricault never completed the painting, and returned to France. In 1821, he painted The Derby of Epsom.