Gericault "Be your own person." Gericault and other Romantics applied this maxim to their style of painting. Gericault was not bogged down by rules and regulations for painting; he simply painted what he felt and what he wanted to paint. It has been argued by historians, whether or not Gericault was in reality a Romantic painter. Through his works, The Raft of the Medusa, Madwomen, Horse Frightened by Lightning, and The Race of the Barbary Horses, it is apparent that he is a true Romantic painter by examining the elements in his paintings.
The Raft of the Medusa is Gericault's masterpiece, which has highly Romantic themes. Gericault was moved by the real-life tragedy of 149 shipwrecked sailors from the ship "Medusa", which the sailors were abandoned for twelve days on a raft off the Senegalese coast. He chose to portray the moment on July 17, 1816 when the fifteen survivors were overcome with desolation as the "Argus" sailed off.
This was different than previous Classical style paintings because it was the first time an artist used a contemporary subject for a large-scale painting. The high contrast of darks and lights displays extreme emotions, another characteristic of Romantic artists. The viewer feels the sailors' pain and how they feel, gloomy and losing hope.
Romantic artists enjoyed painting man in conjunction with nature. They portrayed man against the wrath of nature; this was different than Classicism, which portrayed man and god with religious ties. The Raft of the Medusa shows man vs. the treacheries of the ocean. The brush strokes of the painting are rich, bold, and energetic, another characteristic of Romanticism. These energetic brush strokes create strong emotions, which are also emphasized by contrast of lights and darks. Romantics usually chose melancholic subjects and the Raft of the Medusa...