Theodore Géricault’s , The Raft Of The Medusa (Scene Of Shipwreck), 1818 1819 Formal Analysis

1031 words - 4 pages

Theodore Géricault's , The Raft of the Medusa (Scene of Shipwreck), 1818-1819Formal AnalysisBy D. McGheeSeptember 27, 2014Submitted for Arts Appreciation 111The Raft of the Medusa is a jaw-dropping composition by the French Romantic painter, Theodore Gericault. The 1818-1819, oil on canvas housed in Louvre, Paris is a staggering, mass (16 ft high and almost 24 ft wide) in size and proportion. This, his most famous painting, is a dramatic and horrifying true story about a 1816 shipwreck of the French naval warship Méduse off the western coast of Africa and its aftermath.Right away it is clear to anyone who stands in front of this composition that the artist Géricault's intent was to depict a realistic visual of the ships abandoned crew who was forced to fend on their own aboard a makeshift raft by their aristocratic officers who took the lifeboats. Theodore Gericault's subjects were victims and cast offs because they were the low class immigrants of society and at the mercy of upper class societies political scheme's.The large, well defined foreground, contains the crippled remains of a hastily constructed raft that is barely keeping its occupants afloat. Gericault's painting easily takes on a directional flow of desperation and emotional elation from the beginning. A collection of body parts scattered across the deck of the raft, and dead bodies intertwined amongst the living and the dying immediately grabs the viewers attention pulling it to the bottom of the canvas. An older man on the left sits staring back towards the audience with a haggard expression of disbelief as he holds on to a lifeless male body, resting against his leg. This with the arrangement of one of the characters lying half-submerged in the murky waters, directs the flow of attention to the middle of the canvas before the eye is quickly swept up towards the right side of the painting to where a group of men standing facing away from the audience pointing and waving in an attempt to flag a ship that is barely visible on the dimly lite horizon. The angled placement to the right makes the ship appear further away which not only creates a heightened sense of panic and despair for the survivors, but also keeps the audience guessing as to if the ship is going away or plans to come back and rescue the stranded sailors.There is a lot of form in this painting starting with the ocean waves on the left side of the painting and around the survivors. Gericault chose to place all the sailors in one area of the raft, including the dead. This not only gives great emphasis to the true size of the raft but also automatically gives an intimate position of closeness which gives the viewer a sense of being placed directly on the edge of the faltering raft with the survivors. This gathering of the subject into groups creates balance and movement. Movement is further addressed through the soft, billowy lines used to portray their clothing and the sails.Gericault wanted to...

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