This new monograph explores the life and works of Théodore Géricault (1791–1824), whose compelling career and legacy continue to captivate audiences, artists and critics alike. In her comprehensive survey, Nina Athanassoglou-Kallmyer pays tribute to established Géricault scholarship, but also reassesses the career of an artist too easily miscast as the archetypal ‘tortured soul’ of art-historical Romantic mythology. She examines Géricault’s career in the context of Restoration France, a society under the controversial rule of Louis XVIII, in which civic structures, political process and even aesthetic categories were the subject of vigorous popular debate. Géricault immersed himself in these polemics, taking an intense interest in the fait divers, or ‘daily happenings’, of his time.
Athanassoglou-Kallmyer explores his interest in medical and psychiatric science (as exemplified by a series of portraits of monomaniacs), his empathy for the poor and dispossessed (the subject of numerous lithographs) and the entrepreneurial spirit that led him to exhibit his epic canvas, the Raft of the Medusa, in London as a commercial venture. Géricault is presented as an artist committed to capturing contemporary life with creative integrity and dramatic verve.