Jean Louis André Théodore Géricault was born September 26, 1791 in Rouen, Normandy. He was educated by Claude Vernet and Pierre Guérin. His first major work revealed influences of the style of Peter Paul Rubens and an interest in the depiction of contemporary subject matter. A trip to Florence and Rome in 1816-1817 gave Géricault a fascination with both Michelangelo and Baroque art.
His series of lithographs on military subjects that he created after his return from Italy are considered some of the earlist masterworks in that medium. Many of his works would share the military themes of his early paintings. Perhaps his most significant work is 'The Raft of the Medusa', which depicts the aftermath of a French shipwreck in which the incompetent captain had left the rest of the crew to die.
The classical structure of the figures and composition is juxtaposed with the turbulence of the scene and creates an important bridge between the styles of neo-classicism and romanticism. The painting was unsuccessful in France, so he took it to England in 1820, where it received more praise.
Weakened by accidents and chronic tubercular infection, he died in Paris on January 26, 1824 after a long period of suffering.