The Raft of the Medusa and the Roots of Romanticism

1455 WordsJun 23, 20186 Pages
The transition from Neoclassicism to Romanticism arose from a desire for freedom of thought. Romantics truly believed that the pathway to freedom was through imagination rather than logic and functioned based on emotion rather than on cognition. The Romantic Movement recognized passion and sentiment as genuine sources of aesthetic experience, and placed a new emphasis on sensations such as apprehension, awe, horror and the sublimity of untamed nature. Théodore Géricault, who is most famously known for The Raft of the Medusa, was a prominent French painter and one of the most influential pioneers of the Romantic Movement. In The Raft of the Medusa, Géricault, unlike most artists during this stylistic time period, rejected the Neoclassical…show more content…
In addition, because Géricault studied the human anatomy very closely throughout his lifetime, he was able to outline the passengers’ bodies in The Raft of the Medusa with intricacy. Ultimately, Géricault was able to configure the passengers’ precise muscle definitions and skin tones through his meticulous use of oil, pigment, chalk, varnish and wax (“Géricault’s Expenses” 638). In addition, the dimensionality and accurate portioning of the humans’ bodies enhances the scene’s intensity. This Romantic appreciation for histrionics and naturalism greatly differs from the ideals supported during the Neoclassical Period. The Neoclassical Period renewed an admiration for the classical antiquity, which incorporated the subjects of ancient art. For example, in comparison to Angelica Kauffman’s Mother of the Gracchi, the skin definition and tone differences are evident. In Kauffman’s piece, the characters display unnaturally smooth and relatively undefined complexions. However, in The Raft of the Medusa, the characters exhibit defined, and properly positioned and configured bodies in relation to another. Thus, Géricault’s appreciation of human anatomy and configuration creates a naturalistic and lifelike scene within the painting. In The Raft of the Medusa, the most crucial aspect in relation to Romanticism is the incorporation of intense emotion as an authentic source of

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