Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) was one of the towering geniuses of the Romantic period.
Partly self-taught and partly trained by Carle Vernet and Pierre-Narcisse Guerin, he arrived at a wholly personal style with which to portray modern life – turning his back and the grand mythological and religious subjects that had dominated art up to his time. His great achievement was The Raft of the Medusa of 1819, which received an only mixed reception at the Salon and was not purchased by the State. Thereafter, he traveled to England where he took on the horse as a major subject. Finally, he made a series of Portraits of the Insane before his death in 1824 from injuries succumbed during repeated riding accidents.The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is fortunate to possess multiple works by this great artist, including two important paintings (Horse and Jockey in the Mellon Collection and Scene from an Epidemic of Yellow Fever at Cadiz BOTH ON VIEW), many pencil drawings, and an English period watercolor (Leaping Tiger recently gifted from the Mellon Collection.) Over the past seven years the museum has been fortunate to acquire a number of important lithographs by Géricault through gift and purchase. Géricault was one of the first artists to explore the artistic possibilities of lithography and his body of lithographs can be considered one of the great achievements of nineteenth-century romantic art. Such prints offer the only complete body of work in any medium by this great artist – numerous paintings being left incomplete. Recently, we acquired a rare master pen lithograph from his English period, called The Sleeping Fishmonger. It is the 58th work by this master to enter the collection.
–Dr. Mitchell Merling, Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art