The Doomed Rafts

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Why is it important that the handling of compositional space, light, and dramatic theatrical effects contribute to the theme of desperation?
Its beauty lies in its horror. It is a painting which the eye can easily divide into smaller and ever smaller units, each one of which requires – perhaps even seems to demand – feverish attention from the onlooker, quite as feverish as the terrible ocean, which is buffeting the doomed raft itself.
• It is a painting of tumultuous bodies, reaching out, turning, twisting, and contorting, much seemingly in desperate conflict with each other, which coheres as if by some miracle.
• There is so much of it, and it engulfs the eye to such an extent – it is almost as if the eye (mimicking the raft itself) seems to drown in it, as if the ocean is threatening to upend the raft in our direction so that this horrifying mess will shortly be our mess. Such is our horrified absorption. Such is this vertiginous scene of terrible and uncontrollable chaos, with
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• The French government were accused of having appointed as captain an inefficient favorite (King Louis XVIII), and necessary means for safety had not been provided.
• Figures of authority or social standing, painted with decadence and frivolity - a style that, with lightness of touch, would quietly assure the ruling classes of their superiority. The Raft of the Medusa is anathema to this:
• It is realistic and concerns the plight of ordinary, nameless characters - a huge break from tradition.
• It adopts sharp light and shade, giving the canvas a darkness that reflects the horror of the subject matter on display.
• It confronts death and suffering. Rather than an illustration of Monarchy achievement, it depicts a failing and a

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