Having been passionately keen on horse and painting since childhood, Géricault graduated from the Lycée Impérial in Paris in 1808, and then became a pupil of Carle Vernet, who was then gaining popularity for the paintings of graceful horses and of officers and soldiers of the Napoleon’s army. Two years later, in 1810, Géricault entered the studio of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, started to take professional trainings. Besides Géricault, the Guérin’s studio produced some important Romantic painters including Eugène Delacroix and Léon Cogniet. Géricault, however, left the studio due to that he could not adapt himself to his mentor’s strict disciplines of neoclassicism, and soon afterward, he started to devote himself to copying various great works by great masters of the past in the Louvre. Named as "Napoleon Museum" at the time, the Louvre became a treasury of famous paintings, thanks to the spoils of war that the emperor seized from all over Europe. Copying a number of great works of the predecessors was the best practical education for young Géricault. His self-trainings came to fruition when Géricault made a brilliant debut at the tender age of 21: His painting An Officer of the Imperial Guard Charging (Louvre Museum) was selected for the 1812 Salon, winning the gold medal. Even after achieving such a great success, he continued to dedicate himself to further study. He went to the royal stables in Versailles to draw various postures of horses with tireless and deliberate observation. And also, his sketchbooks were filled with the drawings themed on military. One can say that despite his short life of only 33 years, Géricault could have left his name as a great master who embodied the essence of Romanticism. That may be because of the results of his intensive trainings during his young ages. This work can be regarded as one of his study-like paintings that were made at the age of around 20, when he started his painting career. In his oeuvre, finished large works are very few, but rather, there are many more study-like small works which attempted to pursue the same theme from various angles. This painting could probably be one of his representations developed under a certain concept that was themed on a valiant equestrian image. His attitude of trying to realistically represent strong feelings and strained movements is a very representation characteristic to the Romanticism. While Géricault was painting the general of Napoleon’s army, Napoleon himself was spending rapidly changing days both publicly and privately, such as the victory over the Battle of Wagram, divorce with Josephine, marriage with Marie-Louise, Russian campaign and retreat from Moscow. Meanwhile, in the art world, the Neoclassical and Romantic schools were competing in beauty with each other, creating a number of exquisite masterpieces such as Ingres’s The Valpinçon Bather, David’s The Distribution of the Eagle Standards, Gros’s Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau, Girodet’s The Entombment of Atala, and Goya’s Disasters of War. Like surging waves, the art world was definitely rushing toward an era of Romanticism. It was 15 years later in 1824 that Eugène Delacroix, a standard-bearer of Romanticism after Géricault, exhibited Massacre at Chios at the 1824 Salon, which brought victory to Romanticism at the Salon.


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