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The Cover
February 27, 2002

Portrait of a Negro

JAMA. 2002;287(8):951. doi:10.1001/jama.287.8.951

The professional career of Thodore Gricault (1791-1824) lasted only 12 years. When he died in Paris at the age of 32 (a death attributed variously to complications following a fall from a horse, to tuberculosis, and to a venereal disease), he had exhibited only three works: the huge, baroque-like Charging Chasseur of 1812, the equally grand (though less successful) Wounded Chasseur of 1814, and, in 1819, the controversial Raft of the Medusa. The last, which was based on extensive research into a contemporary shipwreck, is arguably his best work, but one whose early reputation, at least in France, was obscured by the journalists' insistence on a political interpretation of the subject matter. Still, these three works were enough to enshrine him in the pantheon of French painters. Like so many others (van Gogh comes most immediately to mind), what Géricault could not achieve in life he achieved after death: his posthumous reputation far exceeds that of his life.

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