To trust, to put faith into the emotional life. To unencumber oneself of the layers of reason and logic, the common sense of classicism that had dominated art to that point. Romantic visions, but with a classical foundation. It added up to the beginning of sensationalism. Before Girodet, no one had consciously attempted to articulate the mental state of a child to this degree, for Girodet very much affirmed that the artist’s vision was more significant than tradition. And with it, he pitched his art to the emotions and hence to the people, dismantling the super-ego purview that royalty had monopolized. …
The child, Benoit Agnes Trioson, was the son of Girodet’s mentor and stepfather. The boy died young, making him all the more “romantic.” (Keats, Shelley and Byron also died young.) Putting his book aside, he gazes off into the distance, thinking his own thoughts, his face radiant with consciousness. He is shown in the traditional pose of melancholy, his head resting on one hand. It is an astonishing psychological portrait, pre-dating Gericault’s portraits of the insane, which attempt to convey their mental state, but are much less convincing than Girodet’s singular portrait….
…All the more so because Girodet shows the boy as an individual, not as a type. It is rare enough to treat children as serious persons — Goya and Velazquez do so — and even rarer to realize they have a serious mental life. Girodet was able to convey it, perhaps because he projected his own melancholy into the child, as Bellenger suggests, but also because he had genuine respect and love for his stepbrother. His art has the quality of intimacy that David’s art lacks. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit8-16-06.aspa
To capture a child in a portrait, was to grasp a cultural dialogue, complex , and having for a habitat the dynamic impulsive present. Is young Benoit haunted by the specter of time, a dawning on him of ennui, of inertia faced with the passing of empty space, the infinite, near eternal perception of time it appears to become an adult and all the nasty experiences it entails. After all, if even the infantile and the rebel, the perennial adolescents succumb to time, what options are left, for the more aware of time one becomes, the more aware of death…..
With the children’s paintings of Goya we can see the first romantic taste for the peculiar, the slightly macabre, seeing a sense of cruelty as one of the defining aspects of life and the representation of a tragic sense of humanity, perhaps a tragedy borne of their trust in mankind and in painting as an act of redemption from it….