Gericault: Drawings & Watercolors

By Thaeodore Gaericault; Klaus Berger | Go to book overview

I

THE name of Géricault is not unknown, even though no book about him has ever been published in English. But it might be said that the single painting which made him famous in his own lifetime has obscured acquaintance with all the rest of his work for a century and more. Every history of art calls attention to the showing of his Raft of the Medusa in the Paris Salon of 1819 as the first of those scandals in the world of art which were typical of the century and which seem to have been almost inevitable. But the other "victims" of such scandals -- Delacroix, Courbet, Manet, Cézanne, and the impressionists -- have in the meantime been reinstated to their true artistic positions; Géricault still waits in obscurity for public recognition.

Among connoisseurs, to be sure, he has always been esteemed. Delacroix, Champfleury, His de Lasalle, the Marquis of Chennevières, and Léon Bonnat did not lump all his works together under the heading of the Medusa," but had a very clear conception of how inexhaustible he was in originality, how great in quality, how intense, how modern, how interesting in all his creations, even the tiniest sketches.

Nearly every generation has had a similar clique of admirers who not only have prized Géricault's art but also have been brought together by their common appreciation. To this Géricault cult we owe the survival of so many works by the almost forgotten artist--many more works than one is likely to suppose could have been produced in a short decade of creative activity.

There have been, no doubt, many different reasons for this enthusiasm over Géricault. Some admire his superb painting of horses, others his artistic reflection of the Napoleonic scene, some esteem him as the originator of fine lithography, others as the discoverer of English art for his century, and still others as a champion of liberalism under the Bourbon Restoration. Many see in him the first modern painter of his country, and demand for him the place of honor wrongly conceded to Delacroix; many think of Géricault as simply Géricault -- a miracle, a charm, timeless, incomparable, and beyond all discussion.

The first authoritative biography, published by Charles Clément in 1867, fortythree years after the artist's death, opens with these unusual words: "It was with fear and trembling that I began this study. I have never been so afraid, and, I confess, so afflicted by the sense of my inadequacy as at the moment when I determined to do homage and justice to the genius of the greatest artist of our time, and to direct

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Gericault: Drawings & Watercolors
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • I 5
  • II 10
  • Gericault Exhibitions Since 1924 18
  • Biographical Notes 19
  • Short Bibliography 20
  • Catalogue 22
  • Plates *
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