Between 1812 and 1814, while Napoleon's armies waged war across Europe, Théodore Gericault began a series of small canvases depicting Napoleonic cavalry officers. These paintings provided Gericault with the opportunity to explore two of the subjects that he loved best: the horse and the pomp of military life.
The Trumpeters of Napoleon's Imperial Guard is part of this series. Gericault does not portray an individual, but rather a romantic ideal of the dashing soldier. Though the depiction of the officers suggests actual portraits, the painting is an invention. The painting's composition is based upon strong visual contrasts. Gericault used short, rapid brushstrokes to define the central figures in the foreground while using broader, more sweeping strokes to create a neutral background. He further distinguished the figures from the background through his use of color. The background is in dark tones, while the figures are in warm, vibrant tones, that cause them to advance toward the viewer. The brightly colored parade uniform gives the painting a sensuous appeal and provides visual unity as it is repeated across the canvas. Produced during the height of war, the artist makes no reference to its hardships or defeat; instead he creates a romantic image of military grandeur.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication French Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I: Before Impressionism, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/french-paintings-nineteenth-century.pdf