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Wounded Cuirassier Leaving the Battlefield

Painting, 1814, 358×294 cm

Description of the artwork «Wounded Cuirassier Leaving the Battlefield»

"Wounded cuirassier leaving the battlefield" - one of the iconic and most dramatic paintings of Theodore Gericault - created by a 23-year-old artist in a terrible hurry. It was the 1814th year. France suffered a painful hangover after the defeat of the Napoleonic army. Napoleon abdicated the throne. The Bourbons returned to power again.

In the early summer of this year, Gericault left the capital. He spent the summer months in the homeland of his mother, in Normandy, devoting more time not to painting, but to horseback riding. However, Paris, experiencing a catastrophic and kaleidoscopic change of political regimes, still attracted the artist. In September, Gericault returned and received an invitation to participate in the Salon. He had nothing to imagine. In just three weeks, working in a crazy rhythm, he wrote Wounded Cuirassier. According to the plan Géricault, "Cuirassier" was supposed to be a paired picture to "To the officer of the horse rangers" and introduce yourself with her. For the "Officer", his debut work, 21-year-old Gericault received two years earlier, at the Salon of 1812, a large gold medal and recognition of the public and critics, not yet suspecting that this success would become not only the first, but also the most large and repeat it will no longer be possible.

The “wounded cuirassier” is only a half to two years from the “Officer Ranger Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard”, and how the mood and overall tone have changed! The officer is represented at the time of the attack, in calm and solemn confidence - the cuirassier leaves the battlefield, he is broken and loses confidence. The texture of both paintings also varies significantly. "The officer of the horse rangers" was written in a nervous, energetic manner, thick strokes (for the desire to work with paint, the consistency is more reminiscent of dough, comrades even called Jerome the kneader). This innovative conceptual style then struck the head of the classicists - an aging Jacques-Louis David, exclaiming: "Where does it come from? I do not know this brush and this style! ” However, creating the “Wounded Cuirassier”, Gericault retreated from his innovation, he made the work more “smoothed” and generally traditional.

But the most striking difference between the "Wounded Cuirassier" and "The Officer of Horse Rangers" was color. While working on the “Officer”, he was still very young, but very ambitious. Gericault set himself the goal of not exceeding, then at least equaling Rubens in the richness of texture; he used a rich palette, combining cold colors with bright flashes of scarlet and fragments of warm tones. The color of the "Wounded Cuirassier" became gloomy, contrasting, dark. He only intensified the oppressive atmosphere of inevitable defeat. Later, Theodore Gericault formulated an aphorism that encapsulates his artistic convictions: “The more shades of black in the picture - the higher its artistic value”.

And so, despite the fact that "Cuirassier" is not inferior to "Officer" in artistic expression, neither critics nor the audience wanted to accept it. They turned away from Gericault. Those who had recently extolled his young but powerful talent, now showed displeasure. The general mood of the Salon of 1814 was expressed in words “There are too many officers and leggings at this exhibition”, in relation to the paintings of Géricault, the opinions were even sharper: "The horse is monstrous!" The coloring is black and distorted ... " It is easy to identify yourself with a victory, but no one wants to identify itself with defeat, and so the French public did not want to. If the “Officer of the horse rangers” was a grandiose symbol of the rise of the Napoleonic era, then “The wounded cuirassier leaving the battlefield” became her mournful requiem, the forerunner of her inevitable sunset.

Author: Anna Yesterday
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Animalism, Battle scene

Style of art: Romanticism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1814

Size: 358×294 cm

Artwork in selections: 20 selections