Thélot (Jérôme) : Géricault. Généalogie de la peinture

Géricault is known for his paintings of horses struck by lightning, for his portraits of children, the most disturbing in French art, for his heads of madmen which have no equivalent in the history of painting, and for his immense revolutionary and modern painting, Le Radeau de la Méduse, a masterpiece of Romanticism and a protest of life even in death. We also know that his life was brief and dazzling, his work unfinished but brilliant, and that his memory was revered by all the artists of the 19th century.
But we did not know what Jérôme Thélot shows here, that Géricault was also a thinker, as great as he was a great artist.

2021 / 11,5x16cm / 288 p. / ISBN : 978-2-85035-033-7

Date de publication : 25 mai 2022

Exposing the thinking behind his art, and the "philosophy in action" that is reflected in it, this essay draws a fascinating portrait, in five chapters that follow the painter’s existential adventure. We first discover in his first works from 1808 to 1814 Géricault’s first torment, which was to question the difference between man and animal, his work then being defined as "self-consciousness of painting", where "human existence comes out of life through representation". Then, from 1814 to 1817, especially in the extraordinary studies executed in Italy, we see that the artist goes back "to the foundation of representation in violence". Then the analysis of the painting of 1819, Le Radeau de la Méduse, reveals that his "genealogy of painting" is completed there, exhibiting in the original life, and in the will of survival, the origin of violence. In the years before his death in 1824, the most audacious force of which the painter was gifted - the force of mercy - finally bursts forth, which makes the irresistible beauty of his lithographs, portraits and head studies, where, "lowering his art", he realized its "most fertile possibility", testifying to the "presence" of others, and to the "transcendence of this presence in relation to any image". Thus, Jérôme Thélot’s essay shows the profound unity of Géricault’s entire work : as self-knowledge, critique of violence, affirmation of life and lucidity of compassion.

Jérôme Thélot, a former student of Yves Bonnefoy at the Collège de France, and a disciple of René Girard and Michel Henry, is an essayist and translator, and professor of French literature at the University of Lyon. His writings focus on romantic and modern poetry, on the philosophy of affectivity, and on the conditions of the image. He has developed a general poetic approach to the authors he examines, in particular Baudelaire, Rousseau, Dostoyevsky, and Sophocles, which goes back to the foundation of speech and representation in the original violence. His work on photography first described the consequences of its invention on literature (Les inventions littéraires de la photographie, PUF, 2003), then the specific characteristics of its phenomenology (Critique de la raison photographique, Les Belles Lettres / Encre marine, 2009). His "Notes sur le poétique" (Un caillou dans un creux, Manucius, 2016) explain the expectations of his research.

Foreign Rights

L’Atelier contemporain attempts to publish books of art and literature and books which associate artists and writers, with the concern to revive a dialogue between the literary and plastic arts.
The ambition is to explore the « paths of the création » through five collections gathered within the company : essays on art, written by artists, conversations and correspondences, monographs, and literature.

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