Honoré Daumier (b. 1808–d. 1879), the foremost French 19th-century caricaturist, lived in a time of radical change: three revolutions, a fourfold increase in the Paris population, and massive urban development. Born in Marseilles, the son of a glazier and aspiring playwright, Daumier’s family moved to Paris in 1815, living in poverty. Daumier studied with Alexandre Lenoir, director of French monuments at the Académie Suisse, and apprenticed to the lithographer and publisher Zephirin Belliard. Daumier drew for Charles Philipon’s satiric journals La Caricature and Le Charivari. His early caricatures were mostly political. Gargantua (1831), picturing King Louis-Philippe on a commode defecating bills and favors, resulted in a suspended six-month jail sentence. Rue Transnonain, le 15 Avril, 1834 commemorated a workers’ uprising against the ban on the right of assembly. When prohibited from political subjects by the censorship laws of September 1835, he turned to social themes, always critical of bourgeoisie, their professions (especially lawyers), avocations, and manners, until 1848. With the fall of the monarchy, Daumier returned to political caricature until 1851 when Napoleon III became Emperor and censorship laws were reimposed. He then returned to social caricature, depicting scenes from the theater, spectators, fashion, women seeking rights—which he regarded negatively—foreigners, and exhibitions, among other subjects. He created nearly four thousand lithographs and one thousand wood engravings. Daumier set a high standard, influencing other caricaturists as well as writers, and helped shape public opinion, and he was a painter, sculptor, and watercolorist as well. Fired from Le Charivari, 1860–1863, Daumier turned to watercolors, some commissioned, which were sold to private collectors. He returned to painting, which he had done most notably in 1848 in the competition for the representation of La Republique. Cervantes’ Don Quixote was a frequent theme, but also subjects from La Fontaine and Molière. Reinstalled at Le Charivari by public demand, from 1866 to 1872, with the more lenient application of the censorship laws, Daumier resumed drawing political caricature. His subjects were primarily international affairs, issues of war and peace, the Franco-Prussian War, and the Commune, with a focus on policies. Blindness ended his career in 1872. His last caricature was of the corpse of the Monarchy in a coffin. He lived his last years in the countryside outside of Paris, in Valmondois. A large exhibition of his work was held in 1878, the year before he died, including paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sculpture. By 2008, seventeen hundred studies of Daumier had been published. For an extensive bibliography see Daumier (Wechsler 1999 cited under Daumier’s Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture, Printmaking).
Reference Works and Catalogue Raisonnées
There are catalogue raisonnées for each of the media in which Daumier worked: for the lithographs, Delteil 1925–1930 comprises ten volumes. The wood engravings are catalogued by Fuchs 1930 and Bouvy 1933. Maison 1968 is the catalogue for the paintings, watercolors, and drawings. The sculptures were first catalogued by Gobin 1952 and then in an exhibition catalogue by Wasserman 1969, cited under Daumier’s Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture, Printmaking. Provost and Childs 1989 provides a subject index across the media. The digital catalogue, The Daumier Register, provides access to the four thousand caricatures through which one can navigate according to subject, series, publication date, and venue. Representations of the one thousand wood engravings are now available on line, as well as 550 oil paintings, one hundred sculptures and nineteen hundred drawings. The online catalogues are very useful reference tools.
Bouvy, Eugène. Daumier: L’Oeuvre gravé du maître. 2 vols. Paris: Maurice Le Garrec, 1933.
Catalogue of nearly 1000 Daumier engravings with reproductions of all the plates and notes on print editions (reprinted San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 1995). With an historical introduction and an index.
Assembled by Lillian and Dieter Noack, this database comprises the digital catalogues covering lithographs, wood engravings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and fakes, with interactive access. Can be searched by series title, publication dates, exhibition, collections or provenance, plate number, and themes. Caption text in French and in English translation. Also contains background information, publication history, and a bibliography. Available in French and German. Very useful.
Delteil, Loys Henri. Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré, XIXe et XXe siécles: Honoré Daumier. Vols. 20–29. Paris: Chez l’auteur, 1925–1930.
The standard reference work (reprinted New York: Collectors Editions Ltd., Da Capo, 1968). Contains reproductions of the almost four thousand Daumier known lithographs, arranged by series titles, chronologically. Information on each lithograph includes publication, states of the prints, major sales, and collections. Daumier’s lithographs are most often referred to by their Delteil number, or D.
Fuchs, Eduard. Daumier Band 1, Das Holzschnitte, (1833–1870). Münich, Germany: Albert Langer, 1930.
Catalogue of Daumier’s wood engravings by a German collector considered by Walter Benjamin as a pioneer of the materialist (Marxist) view of art. The text emphasizes the social significance of Daumier’s work. Focuses on caricature as mass art, which leads to questions of technology of reproduction and the importance of reception.
Georgel, Pierre, and Gabriele Mandel. Tout l’oeuvre peint de Daumier. Paris: Flammarion, 1972.
Georgel argues in his preface that Daumier’s work should not be regarded as an evolution, which supposes a regular movement and finality, but rather it is a give and take, an act of research.
Gobin, Maurice. Daumier sculpteur (1808–1879), avec un catalogue raisonné et illustré de l’oeuvre sculpté. Geneva, Switzerland: Cailler, 1952.
Shows the influence of sculptors Dantan jeune and David d’Angers, and compares caricatures to the Ratapoil sculpture. Reviews Daumier’s types. Regards the disputed figurines as authentic, comparing them with the corresponding lithographs. Discusses the character of his sculpture, analyzing his use of movement and its importance, and argues that Daumier is profoundly classical, escaping the romanticism of his time.
Maison, Karl Eric. Honoré Daumier: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings. 2 vols. London and Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1968.
The standard reference and catalogue raisonné for three hundred paintings and eight hundred watercolors and drawings. Discusses the difficulty of dating Daumier’s sketches and paintings. Includes media, dimensions, collection, provenance, exhibitions, references for each work. Daumier’s paintings, watercolors, and drawings are referred to as Maison or M-I or M-2 in the literature.
Provost, Louis, and Elizabeth C. Childs. Honoré Daumier: A Thematic Guide to the Oeuvre. New York and London: Garland, 1989.
Based on the chronology provided by the numbering of the plates. First comprehensive iconographic and bibliographic compendium, linking the main catalogue raisonnées in all media by themes, places, and people. Very useful resource.
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