Young, passionate, and wholeheartedly engaged in the pressing social issues of his day, Théodore Géricault was not only one of the most influential artists of the Romantic period, he may be said to have prefigured modern art. Despite his short life — the French artist died in 1824 at the age of 31 — Géricault’s choice of materials and subject matter make him particularly pertinent to today’s media-savvy audience.
Although best known for his epic painting “The Raft of the Medusa” (now in the Louvre), Géricault also worked in lithographs and other easily reproduced media such as drawings in ink, graphite, chalk, and crayon, to share his work and extend his influence. Examples of these more intimate pieces, including several small and finely worked studies for the massive oil painting, now form the core of the Harvard Art Museums’ “Mutiny: Works by Géricault,” on view in the third-floor research gallery through Jan. 6, 2019.
The bulk of the pieces in the four-part show come from the museum’s own Grenville L. Winthrop collection, one of the most comprehensive of Géricault in America, according to curator A. Cassandra Albinson, Margaret S. Winthrop Curator of European Art.
“This is a great collection and also a great teaching collection,” she said. “You can pretty much tell a fairly comprehensive story of Gericault’s career just from the Winthrop collection.” To do this, the show is arranged roughly chronologically, with sections on the artist’s early life, “The Raft and England: Modern Death and Life,” “Printmaking and the Animal Spirit,” and “After Géricault.”