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Overview

At the age of nineteen, Théodore Gericault entered the Parisian studio of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, a successful follower of Jacques-Louis David. In Guérin's studio the young Gericault would have refined his skills by drawing from antique statues and casts in the Louvre and then after the live model as a preliminary to full-scale works.

The Nude Warrior with a Spear is a bold presentation of the male nude that to Gericault's contemporaries would have recalled an "académie," or sketch that was executed as an exercise and meant to serve as inspiration for later, more finished, compositions. In this work however, Gericault has transformed his exercise into a finished easel painting. The model's right leg, spear, and left arm constitute three parallel diagonals, and the body itself is divided into a series of interlocked triangles as can be seen in the bent right arm and left thigh. The power of the figure, however, is communicated through the head, averted from the viewer, and gazing into a barren landscape. The contrast of the figure's virile form against the empty landscape can be understood as a romantic metaphor for the defeat of France, whose vast energies were funneled into the world of the imagination following the Napoleonic wars.

Provenance

Said to have been owned by Phillipe Comairas [1803-1875] and to have passed through the ownership of Dr. Foucault and his brother-in-law, M. de Cuvillon.[1] Léon Abel Gaboriaud, Paris, by 1919; (his sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 17 May 1950, no. 6, bought in); sold 1950 to (Julius H. Weitzner [1896-1986] New York); sold 10 October 1950 to Chester Dale [1883-1962], New York; bequest 1963 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1924
Exposition d'oeuvres de Gericault, Hôtel Jean Charpentier, Paris, 1924, no. 5
1924
Gericault, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, 1924, no. 5
1937
Chefs-d'oeuvre de l'art français, Palais National des Arts, Paris, 1937, no. 331, repro. Album
1937
Gericault, peintre et dessinateur, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1937, no. 2
1939
La Pintura Francesa de David a nuestros días, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, 1939, no. 61
1939
La Pintura Francesa de David a nuestros días, Salon Nacional de Bella Artes, Montevideo, 1939, no. 29
1940
Exposiçao de Pintura Francesa, seculos XIX e XX, Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janiero, 1940, no. 44
1940
The Painting of France since the French Revolution, M.H. De Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, December 1940-January 1941; November 1941-January 1942, no. 44, repro.
1941
French Painting from David to Toulouse-Lautrec, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1941, no.56
1941
Masterpieces of French Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1941, no.68
1941
The Painting of France since the French Revolution, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1941, no. 56
1965
The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
1979
French Romanticism, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979, unnumbered checklist.
Bibliography
1845
Blanc, Charles. Histoire des peintres français au dix-neuvième siècle. Paris, 1845: 442.
1924
Regamey, Raymond. "Hommage à Géricault." Les Cahiers du mois (31 July 1924): 405.
1924
Trevise, duc de. "L'Exposition Géricault." L'Illustration (3 May 1924): 405.
1926
Regamey, Raymond. Géricault. Paris, 1926: 13.
1935
Gautier, Maximilien. Gericault. Paris, 1935: pl. 14.
1952
McBride. Henry. "Chesterdale's Way." Art News 51, no. 9 (December 1952): 18.
1953
Eitner, Lorenz. "Deux oeuvres inconnues de Gericault." Bulletin des Musées Royaux des beaux-arts (Brussels) 2, no. 2 (1953): 58.
1956
Nedra, Pierre. "Géricault et ses amis." Arcadie (November 1956): 36.
1963
Prokofiev, N.V. Géricault. Moscow, 1963: 52.
1965
Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 22, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 56.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 49, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 150, repro.
1978
Grunchec, Philippe. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Gericault (Les classiques de l'art). Paris, 1978: 106, no. 124.
1980
Eitner, Lorenz. "The Literature of Art. Review of Grunchec, Géricault." The Burlington Magazine 122, no. 924 (March 1980): 210.
1983
Eitner, Lorenz. Gericault, his Life and Work. London, 1983: 91, 92, 334 n. 131, pl. 18.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 173, repro.
1987
Bazin, Germain. Théodore Gericault, étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné 7 vols. Paris, 1987-1997: 2(1987):364, no. 125.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 177, repro. (not in 1995 rev. ed.).
2000
Eitner, Lorenz. French Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I: Before Impressionism. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2000: 254-261, repro.