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Pablo Picasso Guernica Vs. Theodore Gericault's Raft Of The Medusa

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For centuries artists have moved audiences through the use of pictures. As time progressed those images became more and more demanding of the viewer until they were meant to invoke a physical response. Perhaps the earliest account of such emotionally exact artwork is the 1818 piece, Raft of the Medusa, by Theodore Gericault. As time progressed people became more politically aware and involved and generations of art portrayed this. Pablo Picasso's Guernica, created in 1937, is a great example of how modern times soon saw a peak in the occurrence of allegorical and politically packed artworks. Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa and Picasso's Guernica are both horrifying accounts of the nature of men that aimed to alter a viewer's political perception

The Raft of Medusa, also known as “The Shipwreck Scene”, was a highly criticized piece of art. This piece focused on then recent national scandal of the French naval frigate The Medusa, whose crew was forced to fend on their own aboard a makeshift raft by their aristocratic officers who took the lifeboats. To capture the reality of the piece, Gericault questioned survivors and crew, littered his studio with severed heads and limbs; even going so far as to construct a raft in his workshop.

Gericault did not receive the reaction he expected from critics. The critics were too preoccupied assessing possible political meanings that they neglected the piece's artistic merits. In 1820 Gericault took the painting to Britain where it achieved financial and critic success and allowed his English art career to flourish. From the warm praise he received since the painting hung in the Royal Academy, Gericault gained friends, patrons, and a new inspiration.

The start of the 19th century saw the emergence of a new, more emotional, deeply inflective, and oftentimes mystery form of art, Romanticism. Creating quite a stir at the 1819 Salon competition he attended with The Raft of Medusa, this piece is considered to be the first epic example of Romanticism due to its dynamic composition, universal theme, and a great emphasis on emotion.

Perhaps the most striking element of Gericault's Raft of the Medusa was the dynamic composition. When the eye is left to wander two distinct diagonals emerge from the piece, both of which seem to contradict the other. One diagonal starting in the lower right-hand corner and ended up with the black man waving a piece of cloth resembles the hope of a rescue for the morbid crew as we see the Argus off in the distant.

The opposite diagonal, however, which started with the dead man in the lower right-hand corner and ended with the billowing sail, directs the viewer's eye towards a large oncoming wave, which depicted the urgency and peril of the scene. This compositional arrangement created the appearance of motion as the viewer's eyes generally started near the bottom of the scene with the dead and the wounded, as it moved upwards through the passenger's reaching arms, to an action-filled horizon.

In coloring his picture, Gericault used a technique that is also shown in some of Pablo Picasso's work. Gericault was intrigued by the Medusa ordeal and wanted to paint a picture that best portrayed the event. To create an emphasis on what was happening rather than what the scene actually looked like, the artist used rather drab colors - shades of brown - to bring down the mood of the piece and create an emotional lull. This lull transformed what the passengers would have actually felt such as despair, loss of hope, and sadness. It allowed the audience to feel similarly.

Because there is an overwhelming brown hue, a viewer's attention is also drawn up to the differently colored areas of the painting being cast in the top corners of the painting. The upper left-hand corner has a hint of blue sky to contrast the oncoming wave beneath it, while the upper right-hand corner is filled with dark yellow clouds to balance out the hope that the Argus ship on the horizon represented. These areas of color set off focus points that relate to the story but are not the main focus off Gericault's, Raft of the Medusa. This predominantly two-toned color motif allowed for more focus to be drawn to the most dynamic figures, which are the same humans Gericault wanted viewers to see and sympathize for.

While Gericault's, Raft of the Medusa was essentially criticized for its lack of direct criticism of the event and more a display of the human element, it is this feature that made it characteristically romantic. Gericault took the national scandal out of the papers and turned it into a personal event for each of the passengers. Rather than depict the weltering bodies of the crew, he gave them more muscular frames in vigorous poses. Originally setting out to portray the event as nothing more than a visual truth, he shifted his focus to portray a greater truth of suffering.

The suffering is reflected in the face of every passenger and it is the main focus of the piece than any other element. The Raft's theme of human suffering evoked empathy and compassion, which helped project the image beyond any hopes the artist could have held for the piece. This predominant focus on the human condition allowed a stereotypical Romantic piece. Another artist famous for highlighting the human condition was Spanish-born, Pablo Picasso.

In 1936 the Spanish government commissioned Picasso to paint a feature piece for their international exposition in Paris at the peak of World War II. Picasso was unsure of what to paint until in 1937 when Nazi warplanes bombed the Spanish town of Guernica to fuel the Spanish rebellion. The piece was to be Picasso's expression and condemnation of the acts. Although no accurate forms exist in Picasso's



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