Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Théodore Géricault - Museum of Fine Arts Ghent


Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt October 18, 2013, to January 26, 2014 (Click link for many more images and more info.)
Museum of Fine Arts Ghent 21 February to 26 May 2014

Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa, the Argus View), 1818-19. Brown ink on paper, 21 x 26.8 cm Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts© RMN – Grand Palais | Philippe Bernard, Paris

In 1908, the Friends of the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent acquired a painting by Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) for a bargain price at a Parisian auction. Entitled The Mad Murderer, the local press speculated at the time as to who would be fool enough to hang such a picture in his living room! The painting – which in fact depicts a kleptomaniac – forms part of a series of portraits that Géricault painted of mentally ill patients in the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. These include, amongst others,

Portrait of a Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon)

and Portrait of a Kidnapper (Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts).

In 1819, Théodore Géricault presented his large historic painting, The Raft of the Medusa, which elicited public admiration but also repelled many precisely because of the tragic circumstances in which the ship sank. Moreover, the canvas denounced the government’s political bungling, which did not sit well at all with the existing powers. Géricault’s monumental composition represented a new direction in painting and sounds more contemporary than ever as it echoes recent events around Lampedusa. Soon after, Géricault produced a series of portraits of mental patients, deciding to abandon the conventional ways of depicting madness and rather highlighting the personality and humanity of his subjects.

The exhibition aims to show that far from being a painter of tragic and insane subjects, Géricault, above all, desired to represent the margins of everyday life with a profound empathy and compassion for the protagonists of his paintings. Various international museums have also lent their paintings, drawings and prints by Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Francisco Goya, Johan Heinrich Füssli and Adolf Friedrich Menzel for this exhibition.