Friday, January 22, 2010

Officer of the Chasseurs Commanding a Charge, Géricault

Officer of the Chasseurs Commanding a Charge, Géricault (1812)

Painted approximately a decade after David's portrait of Napoleon crossing the alps, the same move toward individual heroicism can be seen in this Géricault portrait of another military officer. That he chose to depict an unknown officer instead of Napoleon caused controversy at the time this was first exhibited. In addition, the depiction of the officer is less heroic, and more of a man that revels in the destruction of war itself.

The composition of the piece mirrors that of David's Napoleon, placing the figure centered in the piece and commanding all of the attention. The strong diagonals created by the rearing horse and the man's leg energize the figure, giving it a sense of motion and life. While the subject of a historical military figure is highly neoclassical, both the importance of the individual and the vivacity of movment push the piece more toward the Romantic style.

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