Théodore Géricault

Théodore Géricault

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

Théodore Géricault, Le monomane du vol, ca. 1819–1820. Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 49.5 cm. © Lukas – Art in Flanders VZW. Photo: Hugo Maertens. Collection Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Gent.

November 1, 2013

Théodore Géricault
Images of Life and Death
October 18, 2013–January 26, 2014

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Römerberg, D-60311 Frankfurt
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–7pm, 
Wednesday–Thursday 10am–10pm

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The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents the first solo exhibition on Théodore Géricault (1791–1824) in Germany until January 26, 2014. The short-lived painter was one of the great masters of nineteenth-century French painting, and is considered a forerunner of French Romanticism. Géricault’s pictures exude an almost ebullient force of life, which always stands with one foot next to the abyss. With roughly 130 loans from Paris, Lyon, Montpellier, Ghent, Brussels, London, New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere the wide-ranging Frankfurt exhibition focuses on two of the French artist’s core thematic complexes: the physical suffering of modern man, most impressively expressed in his pictures of severed heads and limbs linking life and death, and his psychic torments, masterfully illustrated in Géricault’s portraits of monomaniacs. In a focused overview these two groups of works are placed in the context of his œuvre as well as in the art of his time, thus shedding new light on Géricault’s intellectual assumptions and his connection to the history of medicine and illustrating the reciprocal relationship between art and science. Sixty-two works by Géricault are thus juxtaposed with works by Francisco de Goya, Eugène Delacroix, and Adolph Menzel. The exhibition, curated by Gregor Wedekind, presents Géricault’s novel, observant vision of the fate of modern man, and gives an impression of the artist’s radical realism, which assures him a crucial position in the history of European art. Situated midway between the unsentimental perspective of science and the Romantic fondness for the unfathomable, Géricault’s profoundly human pictures call into question our traditional understanding of realism and Romanticism as mutually exclusive styles of his epoch. Of particular note is the presentation in Frankfurt of four of Géricault’s five famous Monomaniacs. Such a presentation was possible only once before, in 1991 at the major Géricault retrospective in Paris’s Grand Palais. The missing fifth portrait, which cannot be loaned, is replaced by a painting created specifically for the present exhibition by the South African artist Marlene Dumas (born 1953), who currently lives in Amsterdam. In an impressive and surprising way, her work serves as a contemporary counterpoint to Géricault’s masterpieces.

In his brief lifetime Théodore Géricault, born in Rouen in 1791, produced an extensive œuvre, one that includes a number of masterworks. Above all there is The Raft of the Medusa from 1819 (never loaned by the Louvre), in which the artist, in an empathetic dramatization, turned to an existential event that shows men exposed to their physical limitations. By turning the event into a history painting, Géricault added fuel to the political scandal surrounding the fact that the French government failed to rescue the castaways from the shipwrecked frigate Medusa. A tendency toward extremes characterized Géricault’s personal life as well. He became involved in a hopeless love relationship with his uncle’s wife, and his avid devotion to riding led to several falls from his horse, as a result of which he died in 1824, after extreme suffering, at the age of thirty-two.

“The fundamental issues of just how far pictures may go, today the subject of heated debate, whether they should be allowed to cross boundaries and which ones, what sorts of subjects pictures are capable of representing—all these are first acutely raised in Géricault. Although he is unquestionably one of the major artist figures of the nineteenth century, there has never before been an exhibition in Germany devoted solely to this great French Romantic painter. With our Géricault. Images of Life and Death we are rectifying that,” says Max Hollein, director of the Schirn.

Artist list: David d’Angers, Ernest Joseph Bailly, Jacques Raymond Brascassat, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Charles-Émile Callande de Champmartin, Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet, Caius Gabriel Cibber, Léon Coignet, Alexandre Correard, Eugène Delacroix, Marlene Dumas, Johann Heinrich Füssli, Théodore Géricault, Anne Louis Girodet-Trioson, Francisco de Goya, Henry Hering, William Hogarth, Charles Le Brun, Adolph Menzel, Heinrich Merz (after Wilhelm von Kaulbach), John Hamilton Mortimer, George Romney, Johann Gottfried Schadow, George Stubbs, Horace Vernet, James Ward, Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond, Antoine Wiertz

Director: Max Hollein; Curator: Gregor Wedekind (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz)

Press contact:
Axel Braun (head Press/Public Relations): T (+49 69) 29 98 82 153 / F (+49 69) 29 98 82 240 / presse [​at​] (texts, images, and films for download under PRESS)


Théodore Géricault at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
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