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Shipwreck

September 26, 2006

Today marks the birth (in 1791) of Théodore Géricault, one of my favorite painters. Best known for Raft of the Medusa (see above, properly titled Scene of Shipwreck), Géricault’s short career came to an end at the age of 33, not before his completion of a haunting series of portraits of asylum inmates, this ghoulish depiction of two heads, and a study of truncated limbs:

In an unplanned coincidence, my honors class is discussing Scene of Shipwreck today, in particular the artistic decisions Géricault made.

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  1. Marc M
    September 26, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    That particular piece was one of my favorites from your Honors class freshman year. I still recall the discussion about the expressions, color scheme and the direction it leads the eye. I’m still curious as to the signifcance of the fellow at the top.

  2. John Lynch
    September 26, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    Most people only remember the cannibalism :)
    I’ve read interpretations that have made much that the figure is dark-skinned, thus perhaps representing hope residing in the non-European world. Dunno.

  3. s.c. farley
    May 10, 2008 at 11:47 am

    how frustrating that one can not navigate to the previous web page he/she has visited before arriving at your site by clicking on the “back” arrow

  4. Jessica
    May 21, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    The black dude is at the top for a very specific reason.
    Theodore Géricault was an artist of the Romantic period, where they were very into the effects of nature, and how it is such a major force, not to be reckoned with. Man is powerless over nature, insignificant even. Nature is overwhelming and vast.
    This being said, The Raft of Medusa is dramatic, jam-packed with emotion and feeling. The scene is the after-math of a shipwrecked voyage on their way to Africa, led by an inexperienced captain. The survivors are floating around the ocean, seeking help, while completely at the mercy of mother nature. This make-shift raft adrift at sea is somewhat of an escape from the western culture which the artist and viewers of this piece would have been accustomed to. Thus, in a sense, anything goes. Canabalism, mutany, death, homosexuality (yes, gays. just look at it! it’s a raft of writhing, sweaty man flesh!) inversion of social status, etc. Hence, the black man is at the top, signaling for help. My favorite part, is the gigantic wave about to devour their raft – just another way of showing that nature is the ultimate reckoning force in life, so don’t mess around with it.
    I hope this provided some kind of insight or clarification.

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