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Case Study: Thèodore Gèricault dared to be offensive

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

In 1818 there a painting shocked the European world. Thèodore Gèricault unveiled a detailed representation of the horrific events that occurred on the raft of the medusa. The large canvas spares no detail of the gruesome, lifeless bodies. Preyed on by the desperate copassengers.Echoing the styles of French Romanticism Gèrcault puts his talents on full display. The work is dramatic from the depths of dark shadows to the pale glistening carcasses piled onto the small pieced together raft. Figures placed in a dynamic arrangement smashing through the rough sea fighting for their lives in a sort of primal deathmatch. While the actual depiction is imagined. It is rooted in a national tragedy and a dedicated investigation into the elements, feel of decaying flesh.

As the story goes, this raft was abandoned by the other survivors fleaing a tragic shipwreck. The raft depicted, was a last ditch effort for the people excluded from life rafts at clinging to life. The stragglers managed to create their own makeshift raft and essential hitch the others. When they realized the addition of people was slowing them down the legitimate rafts cut them loose and left them to fend for themselves. 13 days these people spent adrift at sea waiting for rescue and in that time they turned in each other. Murder and cannibalism. Desperate people doing demented things out of necessity. When they were finally rescued the French government attempted to sweep their story under the rug in order to absolve themselves responsibility of the shipwreck.

Thèodore Gèrcault spat right in the face of the French upper classes and government. Bring the shocking story of the raft to light. Gèrcault was not afraid to offend. This was because of his confidence in his abilities. Confidence in his Romantic style, contrary to the new styles of his peers. You see when you are well versed in your craft and have put the time in to master your abilities, you are free to create. A well done piece does not have to defend itself in it subject matter. This is when an artist can challenge people, shock people, "offend" people.

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