Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault, 1791 – 1824, was an influential French painter and lithographer, whose best-known painting is The Raft of the Medusa. Although he died young, he was one of the pioneers of the Romantic movement. Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. Romanticism was characterised by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical.
Géricault's first major work, The Charging Chasseur, exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1812, revealed the influence of the style of Rubens and an interest in the depiction of contemporary subject matter. This youthful success, ambitious and monumental, was followed by a change in direction: for the next several years Géricault produced a series of small studies of horses and cavalrymen.
After a period in Europe, on his return to France in 1821, Géricault was inspired to paint a series of ten portraits of the insane, the patients of a friend, Dr. Étienne-Jean Georget, a pioneer in psychiatric medicine, with each subject exhibiting a different affliction. There are five remaining portraits from the series, including Insane Woman. The paintings are noteworthy for their bravura style, expressive realism, and for their documenting of the psychological discomfort of individuals, made all the more poignant by the history of insanity in Géricault's family, as well as the artist's own fragile mental health.