Portret van een kleptomaan

Portrait of a Kleptomaniac

Théodore Géricault

About this artwork

Théodore Géricault is one of the main representatives of French Romanticism. The movement developed a deeplyfelt and individualistic style in reaction to the coolness and strictness of NeoClassicism. '‘The Kleptomaniac'’ was one of the ten portraits made by Géricault of mental patients in the period around 1820. Both in the choice of subjects and in the manner in which they are depicted this series known as '‘Monomaniacs'’ is as striking as it is exceptional in the history of painting. Géricault does not present the public with '‘picturesque'’ portraits. His depictions are intended as clinical documents. The symptoms of the various '‘monomanias'’ '– compulsive gambling kleptomania etc. '– are apparent from the sitters'’ garments their facial expressions and their gaze. The suggestive style with its supple and forceful modelling and rapid brushstroke is characteristic of Géricault'’s late work. The maniacs are certainly not idealised but still their portraits express a certain dignity that presents them as individual human beings. The only exception here is '‘The Kleptomaniac'’. His appearance is rough and wild mainly because of his tousled hair and unkempt beard. But his most striking feature is his intense gaze which is both fixed and indirect. The mental confusion of this monomaniac is revealed in his eyes. '‘The Kleptomaniac'’ testifies to the typical Romantic search for truthfulness based on careful observation of reality. In this introspective painting Géricault'’s art reaches its culmination.

About the collection

The Museum of Fine Arts Ghent has a collection of about 9,000 works, from the Middle Ages to the first half of the 20th century. Over 600 works are shown in the museum’s permanent collection presentation. The spotlight is mainly on painting from the Southern Netherlands but print art, sculpture and European painting are also well represented. Moreover, the museum is a knowledge centre for the art of the 19th century, the fin de siècle and the early 20th century.

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