Gericault, Theodore (1791-1824) - The Blacksmith's Signboard (Kuntshalle, Hamburg)
Théodore Géricault was born into a wealthy Rouen family. He studied with the painters Carle Vernet and Pierre Guérin in Paris, and in 1816-1818 traveled to Italy. The Old Masters, especially Michelangelo and Rubens, influenced him more than any contemporary artist. Already in his early works Géricault strays away from the Neoclassical canons, which dominated in the French art of the time. His ‘mounted officers’ of 1812 and of 1814 at the Louvre ‘display violent action, bold design, and dramatic color, and evoke powerful emotion,’ the traits characteristic of the newly born Romanticism.
On his return to Paris, Géricault exhibited The Raft of the Medusa at the 1819 Salon for which he received the gold medal, it also caused a political scandal because of its subject matter. Between 1820-22 Géricault visited England, during which time he painted jockeys and racecourses, e.g. The Derby at Epson in 1821; and made lithographs showing the misery and poverty widespread on the streets of London. In 1822-23 he painted ten portraits of patients at La Salpetrière, the madhouse in Paris. Théodore Géricault died tragically early after falling from a horse.