Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault

At a glance, the painting depicts people swimming on the raft. Their faces are exhausted, and it seems that they have been swimming for weeks or even months. The raft is almost broken, but still it is controlled by people. Some of the people are desperately trying to find the way home whereas others lost their hope in front of death.

While looking at the painting once again, I have noticed that the raft is surrounded by high waves that could break the raft any moment because almost all wood boards are damaged, and it is clear that victims of the storm will never return home.

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The figures presented in the background look more confident and ambitious; they are looking for the earth. People in the foreground look extremely tired and hopeless. It also seems that the sailors were the members of the crew, but their ship was eventually wrecked. Those who managed to survive built a raft and decided to move forward until they reached the coast.

Although there is a hope for survival, the dark wave to the left of the raft seems to smash the raft. So, when I looked at this wave, I was a bit shocked because the painting represents the moment before all people will die.

Apart from the plot, figures, and background, I also noticed the tones and colors that the artist used to deliver the message. Most of the colors are warm and pale; even the sea is not of usual color. The pallet of the painting is predominated by brown, yellow, red, and grey colors. I have also noticed that people depicted on the raft are painted in much lighter colors whereas the background is presented in dark tones. Despite the contrast, there is a smooth transition between lights and shadows.

I have also looked at each member of the crew to notice that each person has completely different impressions on his/her face. In particular, there is an old man in the foreground whose face reflects inevitability and hopelessness in front of the nature. He holds a dead man on his knees.

His skin is darker than that of other people surrounding him. The man’s head is covered with a kind of red headscarf; so, he is the only one who wears red clothes. The rest of the crew wears predominantly white colors. Most of the survived are almost naked.

Emotionality versus calmness makes the painting more dramatic and tragic. The contrasts are also seen in representation of the sea and the sky. Hence, the sky in the upper right corner is as dark as the sea to the left of the raft. At the same time, the diagonal contrast is presented while depicting the raft and the people on it.

There is also bright dawn right behind the sail. Once again, the contrast between the rising sun and the dark sail is represented by the artist. In total, although the colors are smooth and pale, the picture shocks me a bit.

Further observations are focused on contrast presented in the artistic piece. This is of particular concern to expressions on sailors’ faces. Some of the survived were full of anxiety and fear of confronting the storm whereas others looked reconciled with the natural powers and were ready to surrender to their destiny.

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