Theodore Gericault The Raft of The Medusa 1818-1819
I was lucky enough to see this painting in its full glory when I visited the Louvre about 10 years ago. I remember being so struck by the scale and drama of it, and it is still one of my favourite classical works. It depicts the aftermath of the wreck of a French naval ship, hundreds of people died and these survivors were said to have suffered not only from starvation and dehydration, but also madness and cannibalism. The artist, who was 27 when he painted this (!!), studied extensively in preparation. He visited morgues and hospitals to witness and record body decomposition, built a model raft, and even interviewed survivors so that he could inject that emotion into his brush strokes.
I have such admiration for this kind of preparation, and am currently trying to discipline myself to do the same. In this day and age everyone is so eager for a quick fix, to cut corners, to save time, and I am no exception. My work has gotten simpler of late as my time is stretched further and I get busier, but I am happy to have given myself a challenge and work on some pieces that do require some more background work. Not only that, but also things that won't be for sale. I am excited to work on some pieces that aren't bound by those questions 'Will it be wearable' 'Will it be practical' 'Who will buy this'.