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Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Géricault
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Born of wealthy parents, Gericault moved to Paris with his family about 1796. After studying at the Lycee Imperial, in 1808 he entered the studio of Carle Vernet, whose easy-going instruction he later quit for a stricter program of study (1810-11) under the neoclassicist Pierre Guerin. He also worked on his own copying examples in the Louvre of the dramatic art of Rubens Van Dyck, Titian, Veronese, and others. At the Salon of 1812 he exhibited his first major independent painting, "The Charging Chasseur" (Paris, Musee du Louvre), which won a medal and announced through its fiery treatment of military valor the emergence of Gericault's strongly romantic sensibility. Experiments with an antique manner preceded a trip to Italy in 1816-17. After exploring a number of themes that resulted in many small-scale works, Gericault finally found in the story of the raft of the Medusa a contemporary epic that allowed him to raise realism to a powerfully monumental level (Salon of 1819, Paris, Musee du Louvre). In 1820-22 he lived in England where he concentrated on genre subjects and lithographs. A series of portraits of the insane mark a final dramatic achievement. Gericault died of a spinal disease exacerbated by riding accidents.