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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Art + History: The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault

Daytime Program

Thursday, January 7, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0062

The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault, 1819


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.


Great art is timeless, and speaks to us across time, culture and space. Yet great works come from real people living real lives—whether their work was made 5 minutes or 500 years ago. In this series, popular Smithsonian Associates speaker Paul Glenshaw looks at great works of art in their historical context. He delves into the time of the artist, explores the present they inhabited, and what shaped their vision and creations.

Far in the distance of a giant painting is the barely visible silhouette of a sailing ship—the only image of hope in a vast canvas of suffering. Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa depicts the horrific aftermath of an actual grounding of a French frigate off the coast of Mauritania that occurred in 1816—just two years before the painting was completed. Hundreds of passengers and crew survived the incident and set off for the African coast in lifeboats, towing a hastily made raft with about 150 additional people aboard. The raft was soon cut away and was found by chance 13 days later with just 15 survivors. They had endured starvation, dehydration, fighting among themselves, and even resorting to cannibalism. A painting that caused controversy when first exhibited in 1819 in Paris has since become a milestone of the Romantic movement, laying bare human endurance and suffering in the extreme.

Glenshaw is an artist, educator, author, and filmmaker with more than 25 years’ experience working across disciplines in the arts, history, and sciences. He teaches drawing for Smithsonian Associates and studied painting at Washington University in St. Louis.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*


If you are interested in additional Art + History lectures, view the upcoming schedule:


  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.

*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit for each session. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.