Friday, March 4, 2011

!00 paintings an artist might could know

50) The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault 1791-1824
Gericault spent six years copying paintings at the Louvre and brought the influence of Rubens to a new romantic style of painting.

The Raft of the Medusa depicts an actual contemporary incident,
a French frigate was run onto a bar by an incompetent captain. The passengers and the crew built a raft and were abandoned to die at sea by the ships boats who were to have been towing them.
One hundred and forty six men and one woman were on the raft with no means of steering and few provisions. Most of the deck of the raft was underwater. The first night turned to bedlam and at least twenty men were killed. Over the next several days the weather grew worse and the passengers of the raft fought each other for survival in the center of the raft and were killed or washed overboard. By the end of the fourth day less than half of their number were still alive and after that the weak and injured were thrown overboard. Twelve days later the raft was found by another ship. with fifteen men still alive on board. Five of those died immediately after their rescue. Out of one hundred and forty seven who embarked on the raft only ten survived.
The incident became a national scandal after the French government tried to hush it up. The captain was tried and served three years in jail.

Painted in 1819 the picture was exhibited and was both controversial and a sensation. Five years later Gericault was dead at age thirty three of tuberculosis. The painting was made using a lot of a pigment called bitumin. Bitumin was a brown colored tarry asphalt like substance that gave paintings the look of the antique. It was very popular for part of the 19th century. It never really dried and caused cracking and bled into other passages of a painting. The Raft of the Medusa has some serious problems because of that. Fine artists no longer use bitumin however sometimes decorative painters still do.


Philip Koch said...

Good lord what a story, and yes that is an amazing painting too. i had no idea Gericault died so young. It's sort of humbling to hear that.

Deborah Paris said...

Love the new title for the series! Are you getting ready for your trip down our way?

Gail Sauter said...

Geez! I'll never look at that painting in the same way again! -gs

Silvio Silvestri said...

Hi Stape, Does this link with Big shapes blog from yesterday and is the Whole collection of bodies plus sail one big pyramid or group mass? Good story, I eat butmin for breakfast with my wheaties!!

billspaintingmn said...

I saw that painting when it was on exhibit in Minneapolis. It's a very big painting.
The waves, and figures sugguested
a turmoil as your stoy discibes.

The Vinetian Painting exhibit now on display has a much smaller version of this piece.

Kyle V Thomas said...

This is one of those pieces that is beautiful and violently horrifying at the same time. A truly "romantic" painting.

I read that Gericault did studies of decapitated heads and corpses for this. If you get a chance to see the studies for this piece, it's rather fascinating to see his though process unfold.

Steve Andrews said...

Always interesting. I know you are way into this 100 but where possible you might include dimensions. I remember studying this painting in art history and then being blown away when I saw it at the Louvre. I'm estimating from memory, but it was something like six feet by ten feet. The tiny clipper ship on the horizon that they are waving at is probably two inches tall in the original, but can be clearly seen. Thanks.

James Gurney said...

Someone once said that Gericault didn't want to paint feet on this picture. Even with all those figures there aren't many feet. Well, there's socks on one guy, but that doesn't count.

Unknown said...

These kind of monumental works really arent' being done today, are they?
Sort of makes so much our art pretty lightweight by comparison.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I always shudder when I see the magnificent art by men half my age. Oh well. As I have said before.


Stapleton Kearns said...

C'mon baby drive south- John Hyatt

Stapleton Kearns said...

Good! I have been useful.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Juliette Aristides has done a great breakdown of that design in her Classical..... book.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I saw it in the Louvre, I wonder how much it cost to get it to Minneapolis?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have seen some of those studies. That might make an interesting post documenting the paintings construction.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I should have mentioned that it was enormous. Often measurements are given in metric and I don't care to convert them. The blog is intended to operate at about a baseball card level and I am not going to be presenting more information than could be written on the back of a freshly caught perch.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Tube socks I believe. There aren't too many feet in there, are there. They aren't going to need them much anyway.
Jame's blog Gurney Journey was the inspiration for this blog. The link to that is in my sidebar. I read it every day.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Their isn't too much but their is some. Graydon Parish did a piece about 911 that qualifies as that ambitious.