I’ve been silent the last month or so, because–though I’ve had lots of arts-related thoughts bubbling away in my head–I’ve had little time to convert those thoughts into words. Today’s thoughts require very few written words, so I thought it would be worth the brief interruption in my work day.

When I read about the shipwreck of refugees in the Mediterranean this morning, I had my usual reaction. I tried not to think about it, because it is just too horrible to contemplate. But that also seems irresponsible. So I’m actively thinking about the refugees who died, which brings to mind a work of art that I think can do what words perhaps cannot.


Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1819) shows desperate, shipwrecked survivors shouting for help as they see a ship in the distance. Géricault was inspired by a real-world event when he painted this very large painting. You can read more about that story on the Louvre’s website. The circumstances of the story are altogether different from the shipwreck in the Mediterranean last week, but the desperation of the image seems relevant.

When I teach, my students invariably perk up when we reach this period (Romanticism) in an art history survey course. The intense drama and emotion of Romanticism is undeniably moving. Perhaps drawing parallels between such moving works of art and the struggles of people today can have some sort of effect. Or at the very least, bring us out of our apathy and willful blindness as we sit at our computers and drink our morning coffee.




4 thoughts on “Shipwrecked

  1. Ellen, I really enjoy your work and posts! We pray you continue and know how a very good friend, who will join you soon in Seattle, must feel. The perfect moment when, the joy and pride our Figlia bring us. At that moment life feels complete!! So happy for your neighbors to be and you!

    Kind and loving regards!

    Lyn & Neal

    Lyn Anglin
    1239 Cerro Gordo Rd
    Santa Fe, New Mexico


  2. I read the description of the actual event that inspired The Raft of the Medusa. It was hideous and revolting. Surely I am merely the millionth to observe how animated and desperate all the sailors appear in his painting. Just staggering how much life, though a tortured wanting life, the painting conveys. Good parallel to the modern event(s).


    1. Isn’t it just a horrible story? And, yes, it’s pretty remarkable what Gericault could communicate through the bodies of the people on the raft. Glad you agree it makes for a good parallel!


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