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Analysis Of A Narrative In A Painting: Raft Of Medusa By Théodore Géricault

1021 words - 4 pages

Choose one narrative work (any medium) and discuss the storytelling techniques employed by the artist and how effective these were in communicating the narrative

Narrative art is the term given to artworks that conveys a story. In narrative art, “the artist chooses how to portray the story, represent the space, and how to shape time within the artwork.” There are different types of narrative arts such as monoscenic narrative, simultaneous narrative, continuous narrative, to name a few. A monoscenic narrative artwork refers to an entire narrative is represented with only one single scene. Raft of medusa is a very good example of a monoscenic narrative painting.

Figure1: The Raft of the Medusa, Théodore Géricault, 1818-1819,
oil on canvas, 491 cm × 716 cm

To give a brief background of Raft of medusa, the French Romantic painter and lithographer Théodore Géricault did this painting in 1816. Théodore Géricault was one of the pioneers of the French Romantic movement. The narrative of the Raft of Medusa is about the incident of the French frigate Medusa that ran aground off the coast of Mauritania. Only 147 passengers and crew had managed to get on a lifeboat that later on led them to 13 days of terrible hardship. Among the 147, only 15 have luckily survived from that incident and those who managed to survive had been through starvation, dehydration and were forced to practice cannibalism. “The painting asks profound questions about the nature of survival, barbarism, and the miracle of human resilience in the face of the awesome and unforgiving power of nature, as well as the inner-struggle for meaning and purpose we all face.”

In this painting, different layers of narrative can be seen. Therefore, there is a need for us to distinguish between scene and figure expression when viewing a painting, because they do not always correspond to each another in narrating a painting. As we can see from the painting, “The shipwrecked, starving figures aboard Delacroix's Raft of the Medusa express despair; the roiling sea in which they are set adrift expresses dumb, haughty malignance; and the tiny ship on the horizon that might signify safe harbor instead expresses blind indifference.” From this we know that how monoscenic narrative painting is synchronic, and how we are able to retrieve different experiences all at once.

Géricault: Raft of the Medusa; the finished picture.
( Paris, Louvre. Archives photographiques)

Composition is how an artist organizes the subject, by deciding what to leave in and what should be left out determines the effectiveness of how a painting communicates. The big scale of the painting is the first noticeable trait of the painting , the scale have welcomed the audience into the painting. The figure have painted in life size scale to help transcend the audience into the painting , as if they where personally there looking at the event. “The shape of the raft, the direction of the mast, the axes of the figures, all are governed...

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