The career of Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson (1767–1824) was shaped by the dramatic social and political changes brought about by the French Revolution.
The exhibition begins with paintings and drawings from his years as a student of David in the 1780s. The strong linear contours and sculptural modeling of these works demonstrate the artist's emulation of his master's Neoclassical model. Following the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789, Girodet asserted his artistic independence in an austere Pietà, painted for a provincial monastery. His final break with David, however, manifested itself in a mythological painting, The Sleep of Endymion (Louvre, Paris), exhibited to great acclaim at the Paris Salon in 1793.
Girodet subsequently eschewed the rationalism of the Neoclassical style in which he was trained in favor of a more imaginative mode, ranging from the spectral vision of Ossian Receiving the Spirits of the French Heroes, commissioned for Napoleon's retreat at Malmaison, to the apocalyptic Scene from a Deluge (Louvre, Paris). This monumental canvas, depicting three generations of a family balanced precariously over floodwaters, secured Girodet's ultimate triumph over David: in 1810 it was named the best history painting of the decade over David's Intervention of the Sabine Women (Louvre, Paris).
Girodet, like many of David's students, commemorated Napoleon's regime in portraits as well as in history paintings. The exhibition includes one of his paintings of Napoleon in imperial costume as well as drawings and oil sketches related to The Revolt of Cairo (Versailles, Musée national du château). In illustrating this episode from Napoleon's Egyptian campaign, Girodet gives free rein to the exoticism and violence of the emerging Romantic fascination with Orientalism.
The exhibition also features Girodet's portraits of the leading figures of his time, as well as more intimate portrayals of his family members. As Girodet was the most talented draftsman to emerge from David's studio, a selection of his works on paper is exhibited as well.
The exhibition is supported by The Isaacson-Draper Foundation.
The catalogue is made possible by The Isaacson-Draper Foundation and The Florence Gould Foundation. Additional support for the catalogue is provided by the Getty Research Institute and the Getty Grant Program.
The exhibition was initiated by the Cleveland Museum of Art and organized by the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with the special support of the Musée Girodet, Montargis.
It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.