Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault
Le Radeau de la Méduse (The Raft of the Medusa)
The Louvre Museum, Paris.
The Raft of the Medusa—a major work in French 19th-century painting—is generally regarded as an icon of Romanticism. It depicts an event whose human and political aspects greatly interested Géricault: the wreck of a French frigate off the coast of Senegal in 1816, with over 150 soldiers on board. The painter researched the story in detail and made numerous sketches before deciding on his definitive composition, which illustrates the hope of rescue.
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The raft had been abandoned by the crew of the wrecked Medusa. For sustenance they had only a bag of ship’s biscuit (consumed on the first day), two casks of water (lost overboard during fighting) and a few casks of wine. Only fifteen people survived.
i fuck with this painting. bc i think the captain of the ship just had his position bc of politics & he didn’t really know what the fuck he was doing, so no big surprise when his colonizin ass crashed. he high-tailed it on the lifeboat with the other upper-class men while the crew had to make this shitty raft & were abandoned. but see the diagonal that starts in the lower left and brings your eye up to the black man signaling for help? in that black man lies hope for the rest
[also, fun fact: gericault’s studio had mad cadavers and severed body parts while he was doin the studies for this. commitment!]
Yes!! Ingres actually had a massive problem with this painting and tried to get it removed from the Louvre:
"I should like to see removed from the Louvre that picture of the Medusa and those two big Dragoons[The Charging Chasseur and The Wounded Cuirassier], its acolytes…then they will no longer corrupt the taste of the public,which should be accustomed solely to the Beautiful….I resent the Medusa and those other pictures of the dissecting room [Gericault’s studies of human limbs]: they show us man only as a cadaver and reproduce only the ugly and the hideous. No! I object to them. Art should always be beautiful and should teach us nothing but the Beautiful."
^^ Like I’ve said repeatedly-what we think of as “beautiful” is shaped by our culture, and has been shaped that way ON PURPOSE by individuals. Note how Ingres is very concerned that this painting would “corrupt the taste of the public”.
This kind of open grappling for control over what kind of art people see, what kind of subjects, is nothing new.
My art history teacher says that when you stand in front of it your whole body seizes up and you are there. The painting is huge and some people get sea sickness from looking at it.
The black man held in a positive manner was not uncommon in 1800s France. Seeing as many French disagreed with America’s stance on slavery this was the artists subtle, yet powerful way of going against America.