Portrait Of An Insane Man Analysis

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Use of portraiture in redefining ostracized people
In discussing nineteenth century portraiture it is relevant to discuss the different styles of Anne-Louis Girodet and Théodore Géricault in their Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley and Portrait of an Insane Man respectively. Both of these artists express a distinct difference in stylistic technique and composition that create an interesting contrast when juxtaposed. There is a similar attempt to render the subject matter of an African man and an insane man in a normalized fashion. These groups of people have traditionally been ostracized from the societal whole and depicted, in unfavorable light. The act of redefining the idea of such figures in portraiture creates a new layer of thoughtfulness
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By consciously creating with a loose stroke he is able to give an unpolished and unkempt quality to his subject matter. The blotchy tonality that the skin tone color gives off does not work in favor for the man but gives him an exposed quality as he is not idealized and highly polished as a Classical rendering of a figure would be but stripped to show authenticity. Thus, it works like a sheen overlay that heightens the lost look that the man holds and allows the viewer the ability to interpret this as not being a figure of high stature or esteem. This idea is fully delivered in the gaze of the man who looks beyond to the right and is off focused from the viewer and glazed over. The application around the eyes gives a lack luster quality to the almost listless eyes that speaks to a hard and unfavorable life. The lack of background beyond the flat dark surface draws the viewer forward and directs all of the attention to the man. This intent to a wholehearted focus on the sole figure has been interpreted by Crow to “…display a sympathetic objectivity which is congruent with…” the new approach towards psychiatry lead by the French . There is further consideration that this held a personal significance for Géricault and the position of social …show more content…
The political and social realities of each time period allow for such commentary to be freely expressed by the artist by allotting a space for the artist to digest the political and societal dialogue and reinterpret it into painting. Girodet’s portrait of the delegate speaks to the achievements made by Belley and others for the African people in the arenas of slavery and citizenship as discussed by Crow in Patriotism and Virtue. Likewise Crow also mentions the ability of Géricault as an artist to freely comment on a subject such as insanity and the perceptions towards it, as this topic gained popularity in the public sphere with the advent of a new scientific approach. In much of a way there is an attempt to neutralize the subject matter by normalizing and humanizing the figures but also these topics are fueled equally by painting these figures as is. There is no attempt to idealize the figure of the insane man equally as there is not an attempt to create a barbaric African man. Each portrait is realized in a clear and balanced way that humanized them to truly change the way in which such individuals who were accepted as being outside of society or at the bottom of scheme were

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